Erie-Ottawa International Airport’s efforts to expand its services and add more traffic apparently haven’t gone unnoticed.
The airport has been awarded a $639,854 state grant to carry out maintenance work on its longest runway and on a taxiway. It’s the biggest grant among the about $5.8 million that the state awarded to 24 airports, according to a letter written to Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, by Tisha P. Brady, legislative director for the Ohio Aviation Association.
Stan Gebhardt, director of the airport at 3255 E. State Road, near Port Clinton, said the airport will hire contractors next year to do work on the airport’s longest runway, which has asphalt cracks that need to be fixed. The runway is 5,646 feet long, large enough to be used by a large Air Force C-17 transport, which landed at the airport this year. Work also needs to be done on a taxiway, and the money will pay for that, too, he said.
Just like roads, airport pavement can develop wear and needs to be repaired over time, Gebhardt said.
“It’s kind of like a bad highway — nobody wants to travel it,” he said. “This is huge for the airport to get this grant. We’ll be able to stay ahead of the curve by getting this work done next year.”
The state’s Ohio Airport Grant Programs pays for work at airports which don’t get enough traffic to qualify for federal government FAA grants, according to Brady’s letter.
Traffic to Erie-Ottawa International Airport has been growing, fed by several initiatives Gebhardt has worked on. They include bringing over operations from the now-defunct Sandusky-Griffing Airport, opening up a customs station so the airport can welcome international traffic and working with the new Liberty Aviation Museum, which is located at the airport.
Gephardt said jet traffic is up 100 percent over the last four years, and traffic from smaller propeller planes also has risen.
Gardner and state Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, said they believe the state grant recognizes the growth at the airport in recent years. The additional hangars at the airport show that private investments are being made in the airport, they said.
Gardner said lawmakers have been able to find ways to increase funding for airport capital improvements because they believe infrastructure is tied to economic development.
“We’re told that higher quality airports tend to encourage businesses that have some air transportation component,” Gardner said.
Turning the former regional airport into an international airport has encouraged Canadian pilots to fly in, and American pilots returning from trips across the border, Gebhardt said.
“Obviously, there’s plenty more to do to utilize the airport for tourism,” Gardner said.