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For the week of Mar. 22 through Mar. 28, 2000

Airport funding
could double

Safety and capacity funding at Friedman could benefit

"One million dollars is not a huge amount of money when you’re capitalizing assets at this size airport."

-Rick Baird, Manager, Friedman Memorial Airport

Express Staff Writer

Friedman Memorial Airport’s capital improvement funds could double if President Clinton signs an aviation bill that landed on his desk last Wednesday.

Created by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR 21) authorizes more than $12.6 million for Idaho airports for safety improvements and expansion.

For Friedman, that could mean a budget boost from its current $500,000 level annually for those items to $1 million annually for the next three years.

Airport manager Rick Baird said during a telephone conversation on Monday that the extra money would allow the airport to expand on projects already underway as part of a three-year airport improvement master plan.

That plan, which is currently funded by $4 million a year in federal grants, Baird said, is aimed at building runway aprons, moving taxiways away from existing runways and moving fixed base operations, now located at the northeast corner of the airport, to a more suitable location.

Fixed base operations include fueling, passenger and maintenance services.

"One million dollars is not a huge amount of money when you’re capitalizing assets at this size airport," Baird said.

The total airport budget, according to Baird, has recently been about $6 million a year, due to the federal grants’ coinciding with the master plan.

When the master plan is completed next year, and after the federal grants are exhausted, Baird said, the total budget will return to its usual amount of about $3 million.

Projects Baird said the AIR 21 funds could go toward include terminal expansion and purchasing snow-removal equipment.

In a press release, Simpson claimed that in previous years money for airport improvements has been directed out of the federal Aviation Trust Fund, which is intended to help airports improve the safety of travelers. The fund is supported by taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets.

In addition to redirecting funds, AIR 21 reforms the management of the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control system by creating an oversight board; and increases the FAA’s facilities and equipment budget so the agency can modernize its antiquated air traffic control system, the press release said.

"I’m excited about what this money can do for Idaho airports," Simpson said. "When I talked about AIR 21’s funding a year ago, we weren’t sure the bill would ever get to the House floor….I’m hopeful [President Clinton] will sign it and let Idaho airports start reaping the rewards."

The president has until Tuesday to either sign or veto the legislation.


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