By Ryan Pfeil
Rehabilitation of the Medford airport’s taxiways to improve access for local businesses and air tankers mostly will be paid for with a Federal Aviation Administration grant.
The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program will provide $8.7 million for the $9.6 million project. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved the grant agreement Wednesday at its weekly meeting.
“It’s nice we’re able to accomplish this without county general funds,” said Commissioner John Rachor, who also serves as the county’s airport liaison.
Additional funds will come from a $521,052 Connect Oregon IV grant and airport budget reserves. The airport reserves will be reimbursed through passenger facility charges. These charges are $4.50 per person and are attached to an airline ticket’s final price. They are then put in the airport’s reserve fund and are used for capital projects.
“I expect we’ll be under way with mobilization in a week to 10 days,” said airport Director Bern Case of the project’s start date. “We do plan on getting on it and plan on finishing in the early spring.”
Rachor said most runway improvement projects at airports across the country are funded with similar FAA grants.
The project will include rehabilitation of Taxiway B and connecting taxiways, rehabilitation of a runway and the relocation of a section of perimeter fence.
“Those are all eligible for reimbursement from the FAA grant,” said Deputy County Administrator Harvey Bragg.
Case said the improvements will mean better access for airport businesses on site, including Medford Air, Million Air and Mercy Flights, and to the U.S. Forest Service tanker bays.
Rachor said a large part of the project will be linking the connector pathways for air tankers. As of now, departing tankers have to make a U-turn to get onto the runway, which sometimes causes considerable delays if other aircraft are traveling from the other direction.
“Now they’ll be able to make a loop, and that’ll be really handy,” Rachor said.
The news comes shortly after two record months of travel for the airport, with July 2012 seeing the most passengers in airport history, and August the second most. Both months saw more than 66,000 passengers through the airport gates.
Case said he can’t predict exactly what kind of change in business and traffic the improvements will bring.
“It’ll be tough to measure how much it will increase,” Case said. “But efficiency always helps businesses to do better.
At the Wednesday meeting, commissioners also approved a construction contract with LTM Inc., approving its bid.