By Trish Choate
Construction on Abilene Regional Airport upgrades likely will begin by mid-July, thanks to a $7 million grant.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will pay for taxiway improvements and construction of a vehicle road, said Don Green, Abilene director of aviation.
“We’re very thankful,” Green said.
U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Abilene’s congressman, said an investment in the airport is an investment in Texas jobs.
“By providing easy access to Abilene and the surrounding communities, this airport not only increases personal travel, but business travel as well,” Neugebauer said in a statement announcing the grant funding Thursday.
The money will pay for the second and final phase of rehabilitation for Taxiway C – a taxiway is a paved area used by planes to travel from the terminal to the runways – and add a vehicle road to improve safety, officials said.
The perimeter road will go around the north side of the airport, connecting one general aviation ramp to another, Green said. A runway separates the ramps.
The road will reduce vehicle traffic on the runway, which is a safety issue, he said.
Duininck Inc. of Roanoke will be the contractor for the project, if it is approved by the Abilene City Council approves on June 28, Green said. It will take about six and a half months to complete.
The latest project is part of a program of airport improvements, including a new $21 million, 145-foot-tall air traffic control tower dedicated in early May.
Local aviation officials also have been preparing an application for an $800,000 federal grant to bring in a second airline carrier. Green said the application to the DOT is due June 11.
American Eagle is the sole carrier serving Abilene.
The taxiway upgrade and the perimeter road are part of the airport’s five-year capital improvement program, reviewed and revised annually with the Federal Aviation Administration, Green said.
The $7 million funding is a package of two types of grants, a $1 million entitlement grant and a $6 million discretionary grant, Green said. The grants require a 10 percent local match in funding.
The DOT grant funding comes from user-based taxes on airline tickets and aviation fuel sales – not general federal tax revenues, he said.
The entitlement grant is based on the number of passengers flying out of the airport, he said. The discretionary grant is based on the value of the Abilene Regional Airport’s projects in relation to the National Airspace System.
The NAS includes all public U.S. airports regulated by the FAA, Green said. The grant award stems from a ranking of all of those airports’ projects and how important they are to the overall system.
Abilene officials had hoped to secure enough funding to rehabilitate a second taxiway, Green said. But the budget won’t allow the additional project, and the $7 million grant won’t cover it.
Source: ABILENE REPORTER NEWS