FAA Proposes $20.1 Million for St. Paul Airport Floodwall and Safety Improvements

ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 9, 2006--The Federal Aviation Administration has notified Metropolitan Airports Commission Chairwoman Vicki Tigwell of the FAA's plans to provide an additional $20.1 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants toward improvements at St. Paul Downtown Airport.

AIP grants are generated from user fees levied on aeronautical activities. The FAA had already provided $4.6 million in 2005 for development of an airfield sub-drain system. That system helps prevent soil saturation and related impacts on airport pavements. The new grants would be distributed over three years, beginning in 2006 and ending in 2008.

"We have worked closely with FAA officials, state and local leaders, and Minnesota's Congressional Delegation for a number of years to secure federal funding for these improvements to the airport," Tigwell said. "Our goal is to make the area's primary corporate reliever airport as reliable for area businesses and as safe for travelers as possible."

Flooding has closed the airport seven times, most recently in 2001, costing the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and businesses millions of dollars in flood control, cleanup, loss of use and similar expenses.

In addition to the FAA grants, funding for the airport improvements will come from a variety of other sources: $6 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics Department; $1 million in state bonding; $1 million in contributions from Minnesota-based 3M corporation; and $13.5 million from the MAC.

The $20.1 million in FAA grants, coupled with $21.5 million from other sources, will result in $41.6 million in airport enhancements over a three-year period. The investment will protect the public's investment in existing facilities, provide an added measure of safety for airport users, and create construction jobs and related economic activity -- all without requiring any investment from the city of St. Paul.

None of the improvements expands the airport's capacity or alters its focus on meeting the transportation needs of the businesses and corporations that fuel the area's economy.

The FAA's funding plan announcement comes one week after the agency issued a finding that the proposed floodwall and airfield improvements would have no significant environmental impacts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also have concluded the proposed flood protection project, which includes compensatory excavation of the river channel, will not cause increased flooding elsewhere. Many private property owners along the river already have flood protection walls in place. The proposed dike project would simply ensure the airport also is protected from costly flooding.

Airfield safety projects to receive FAA funding include runway shortening and re-striping, lighting improvements, taxiway changes, relocation of certain navigation equipment, and installation of crushable concrete material at both ends of Runway 14/32, designed to stop aircraft under emergency conditions.

An economic impact study of St. Paul Downtown Airport published by Wilder Research last year estimates the airport generates $112 million annually for the area economy and supports 853 full-time jobs. In all, 124 airplanes are based at the airport as well as 35 military aircraft.