May 24--Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport Director Tony Bean said Wednesday the airport is likely stuck paying a 10 percent match to the Federal Aviation Administration for the runway realignment project.
Congress passed legislation in February freeing up about $63 billion for Federal Aviation Administration spending, which also contained provisions increasing local airport matches for federal funding from 5 percent to 10 percent. That means the airport's estimated $60 million runway project could cost $6 million instead of $3 million.
"The match is the match and it's probably not going to change, but I'm still going to try," Bean said at the airport board meeting Wednesday. "It isn't just us being affected. There are a lot of little airports out there that this is also hurting."
Bean said last week that the Senate Appropriations Committee is working on a transportation bill to allow small airports to continue with the initial 5 percent match for multiyear projects in progress before the increase became effective, but impending re-elections may keep legislators from focusing on those types of efforts for a while.
Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson urged board members Wednesday to contact elected officials and communicate the airport's struggles to pay the 10 percent match.
"We don't have the money to hire a lobbyist, but we all have individual contacts in Washington, D.C., on the Idaho and Washington side," Johnson said.
The board will have a special meeting sometime this summer to discuss possible funding options for the project. The FAA reauthorization only lasts until 2015, Bean said, and actual reconstruction of the runway will not begin for another three to four years. If there is no extension of the reauthorization, he said it's possible they may pay the heavy construction costs back at a 5 percent match.
Until then, Bean said they'll search all possible outlets for funding.
"We'll start deciding if we need to work with the universities, with the cities and counties -- we're going to be asking the states for a lot of it," Bean said. "We can do about a $1.5 million bond out of the airport, but that's about as much as we can do and still keep the airport running."
He also noted the possibility of doing the project in affordable phases.
"It's going to take us multiple years to do it anyway, so it's a question of how much we can afford each year," he said. "Maybe do it in $20 million chunks at a time, and then we can come up with $2 million for each year," he said.
In addition to adding about 400 feet to the existing 6,700-foot runway, the runway master plan includes shifting the runway several hundred feet and rotating it about 10 degrees. Doing so will put the airport in compliance with FAA regulations and allow for larger aircraft to use the runway.
"The goal is that we'll be able to open up enough property and have enough extra activity to enable the airport to become self-sufficient," Bean said. "The communities are putting a lot of money into the airport to keep it viable, and ultimately that's every airport's goal, is to become self-sufficient."
Kelli Hadley can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 234, or by email to email@example.com.
Copyright 2012 - Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho
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