Published: Apr 18, 2014 5:48 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 18, 2014 6:32 PM EDT

The fourth fastest-growing airport in the country is about to get about five times bigger.

According to the Charlotte County Airport Authority, more than 76,000 passengers came through the Punta Gorda Airport in March.  Not only is that a record for the airport, it's a big jump from the 56,000 passengers in February.

"It's beginning to get a bit crowded in our terminal," said CCAA director Gary Quill.  "Basically, it's just kind of overwhelming growth."

Quill said the surge started last summer, when Allegiant Air made Punta Gorda a base.

"We have very fast turnover with Allegiant," Quill said.  "We have 45 minutes between flights."

When WINK News spoke with passengers, many of them said they don't mind the crowds.

"It's still very good -- it's very fast," said Carolyn Hall, who visits Punta Gorda frequently from Canada.

"From what I've seen, I think the airport is good," said Precious Afolayan, who was returning home to Illinois from a vacation.

Several passengers wondered, as long as Allegiant remains the only commercial airline operating in Punta Gorda, why expand?

"If it's just for one airline, it's unnecessary," Afolayan said,  "It's just wasting resources."

"If youre only going to have the one airline coming in, it's perfectly adequate, we think," said Robert Hall, Carolyn's husband.

Allegiant flies passengers to 23 destinations out of Punta Gorda, but Quill said the airline would like to add more destinations soon.

"(We are) just keeping up, and we're happy to be keeping up," Quill said.

The project would expand the roughly 16,000-square-foot terminal to about 60,000 square feet.  Quill said that would make room for more ticket counters, a larger waiting area, an enhanced security area and what would likely be a fifth gate.

The expansion will cost about $11 million, 80% of which will be paid for with a federal grant.  The Florida Department of Transportation and CCAA will split the remaining 20%.