Jun. 25--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ever get dropped off at Yeager Airport in the rain?
If so, you either got wet or had to board your plane with a dripping umbrella.
That problem and several others are about to be solved.
Work soon will be under way on nearly $5 million worth of improvement projects at the airport, and one of the projects is a canopy over the first lane of the passenger drop-off area.
The canopy will be made of aluminum and glass and has been designed to look like an airplane wing soaring through the air.
Yeager Airport has received one of the largest economic stimulus grants from a pot of money for airports around the country, Director Rick Atkinson said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking for the work was held Wednesday at the airport.
Yeager received a $4.97 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as the economic stimulus plan, for several projects around the terminal and parking lot.
Improvements also will include a fire sprinkler system for the entire terminal, new baggage claim equipment, interior renovations and a digital display system.
State and local dignitaries joined with members of the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority board of directors to kick off the projects, which will actually begin July 6.
Atkinson said $1.1 billion in stimulus money went to the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program, and Yeager received one of the largest grants from that money.
"We would not have been able to do this without stimulus money," Atkinson said.
A representative from the office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., read a statement from the senator, who was unable to attend the event.
"This is a key example of how the stimulus is working in West Virginia," Rockefeller said in the statement. "We will begin to feel early the benefits of the needed recovery dollars."
Wiseman Construction Co., the company currently making repairs to the Kanawha Boulevard Bridge over the Elk River, was awarded the contract to work on the airport. Wiseman has worked at the airport in the past.
"They are a local union contractor, and they will do a great job on this project," Atkinson said.
Including design, the work is expected to cost $4.5 million, slightly less than the grant amount.
Board Chair Ed Hill, who was not able to attend the event, has wanted the canopy for a decade, Atkinson said.
In 2000, Atkinson told Hill the canopy could be built in 2009, but as that date grew closer, the project seemed less likely.
"Ed has wanted the project completed for 10 years, but it kept getting pushed back and pushed back," Atkinson said.
Other projects took priority, such as repairs to runways and taxiways, and no money was available for an improvement like the canopy. Atkinson said before the grant came through, the canopy was slated for 2013. However, it was moved up when the stimulus money came in.
"I never lied to you," Atkinson said to Hill. "I told you 2009 and we did."
The airport work is expected to create 35 construction jobs.
Hoppy Shores represented the Kanawha County Commission at the groundbreaking. He spoke briefly and said the commission is always looking for ways to improve the airport.
The construction contract calls for the work to take 240 days, so the projects should be finished by the end of February.
Atkinson said the parking lot will be renovated first to create more spaces and improve traffic flow. New curb cuts will bring the lot in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. After that, work will begin on the canopy and inside the terminal.
About 40 percent of the airport is now covered by sprinklers, but the older part of the terminal and the air traffic control tower lack them.
Contact writer Cara Bailey at email@example.com or 304-348-4834.