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$2.3M for BE airport

By Staff | Sep 19, 2010

Kathy Bailey

The long-debated Blue Earth Airport runway improvement project received official approval – and funding – from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) last week.

Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken (D-Minn.) made the official announcement on Wednesday.

The FAA funding award totals $2,398,500, and comes through the Department of Transportation. It requires a 5 percent local funding match.

The money is part of the two-year rehabilitation and construction project at the airport.

Included are plans to rebuild the current runway and concrete parking apron areas, as well as building a new taxiway parallel to the current runway.

Blue Earth City Administrator Kathy Bailey says the amount is less than what had been applied for.

“They (the FAA) made some changes to our pro-posal,” Bailey explains. “For one thing, they reduced our proposal to add to the amount of apron parking area, and they are only funding the current size.”

Another change has to do with lighting at the airport, she says.

Originally the plan called for lights for the new taxiway to be installed this year, and replacement of runway lights next year.

“The FAA decided we should have the same contractor do both sets of lights, and so the lighting will all be bid out and installed next year,” Bailey explains. “These changes lowered the amount of the federal grant.”

Bailey says she has scheduled a meeting with contractors and engineers to determine things such as start dates yet this fall, and how much of the project can still be done in 2010.

In their prepared statement, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken praised the overall project.

“Thousands of Minnesotans rely on regional airports each year to stay connected to the world,” Klobuchar says. “This type of project promotes economic development and helps ensure that our airports continue to be among the safest and most reliable in the country.”

Franken adds that local airports like Blue Earth’s allow Minnesotans to travel around the state, and around the world.

“With these funds, this airport can continue to provide the level of service area businesses have come to expect, allowing them to create jobs and bring money into our state,” he says.

Originally the improvement plan for the airport included an extension to the length of the runway.

After much local debate, that plan was modified, and the FAA decided not to fund any extension.