Airport gets $2.7M in stimulus money for runway repairs: Funding expected by May

-- Mar. 26--Departures and arrivals at Salinas Municipal Airport are expected to be considerably smoother in the near future, thanks to millions of dollars in federal stimulus money soon to be winging its way westward. This week...


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Mar. 26--Departures and arrivals at Salinas Municipal Airport are expected to be considerably smoother in the near future, thanks to millions of dollars in federal stimulus money soon to be winging its way westward.

This week, airport officials learned they will receive a $2.7 million Airport Improvement Program grant from the $787 billion Economic Recovery Act through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Combined with a previously approved $1.5 million grant, the local airport will have about $4 million to spend on deferred runway and taxiway upgrades, said airport manager Gary Petersen.

"At any airport, what we do is pavement, and this money allows us to attack a couple of outstanding projects that we didn't have money for because of other projects," Petersen said. "So we're able to put it to good use."

Petersen said he expects funding to arrive by May, when airport officials should have bids in place for the three major projects the money will fund. Plans are in place to repair a runway seam, to reconfigure a run-up area where planes approach the terminal, and to restripe and resurface a half-mile of taxiway where planes take off.

"Frankly, I'm happy to see money going to real things like roads, bridges, runways," Petersen said. "These are important."

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said the projects will produce much-needed jobs while improving essential infrastructure, and noted the inordinate swiftness with which the funds are being allocated.

"Congress

passed the recovery bill with the goal of saving American jobs, and this grant does just that, putting local construction crews to work maintaining an important local resource," Farr said. "We're seeing federal dollars arrive on the Central Coast just five weeks after the bill was signed into law. This unprecedented pace is a clear signal that Washington is taking this process seriously."

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue noted in a statement that the rehabilitation project will "secure the valuable air transportation services provided to agriculture, business and residents in the Salinas Valley now and well into the future."

Petersen said airport officials began the application process in January, and hoped to secure as much as $8.5 million -- enough to repave the 900-acre airport's 150 acres of asphalt and fund the rest of the facility's five-year capital improvement plan. But he said the airport has additional funding requests pending and could receive more money later.

Jim Johnson can be reached at jjohnson@montereyherald.com or 753-6753.

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