EAST WENATCHEE — Pangborn Memorial Airport is two votes away from receiving more than $8.9 million in initial funding for a long-awaited project to lengthen the runway.
Commissioners from ports of Chelan and Douglas counties are expected to vote today in separate meetings whether to accept an initial Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant that would cover property acquisition and some design work, Trent Moyers, airport manager, said Tuesday.
“This is the beginning of the project,” Moyers said Tuesday. “You’re now going to see it go into full swing.”
The ports must provide 10 percent of their own funds to get the $8.9 million grant, which is the first installment of an estimated $28.5 million in funding needed over three years to lengthen the runway.
The project will improve the reliability of existing flights at Pangborn, which need more room to take off and land during temperature and weather extremes, Moyers has said. It will also make the airport more appealing to other airlines that fly larger, regional jets, he said.
The feds agreed to fund the project in May, when it approved an environmental-impact study of the project.
The FAA sent its first offer of funding Monday, Moyers said. The ports must accept the offer by Friday.
The ports have already begun buying private property for the project, which will extend the 5,700-foot runway to 7,000 feet. It includes a reroute of Union Avenue near its junction with Grant Road and affects property on both sides of Grant Road.
The grant funding, if approved by port commissioners, would reimburse the ports for property already acquired, pay for 14 more properties needed on both sides of Grant Road, and fund relocation expenses for some of the property owners, Moyers said.
Of the properties that remain to be acquired, seven are homes. The rest are commercial orchards and agriculture, Moyers said.
The initial $8.9 million grant is equal to the estimated value of the total property acquisition needed and some design work, he said.
Grant funding will arrive in phases, Moyers said. Construction to realign Grant Road and Union Avenue is expected to begin in spring and fall 2014. Runway and taxiway extensions will happen in 2015.
Alaska Airlines is the only airline with regularly scheduled flights into Pangborn. Its 76-passenger Bombardier Q400 flies several times daily to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Port officials call the runway extension “critical infrastructure” necessary to maintain and expand services and eventually attract a second airline, which could offer scheduled flights to other regional cities.
Critics have called the project a waste of taxpayer money, since the Wenatchee Valley has been consistently unsuccessful in supporting a second airline. They point to the airport in Moses Lake, which is accessible off Interstate 90 and already set up to receive large aircraft.