Every few years, West Michigan’s highways need to be patched up and given a new paint job. The area’s air highways are no different.
The Muskegon County Airport recently got an $802,594 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to rehabilitate runways and to reimburse the airport for adjacent land it acquired for development. U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, and Gary Peters, D-Michigan, announced the grant.
“This investment will make traveling to and from West Michigan safer and more efficient,” Stabenow said. “Safe and reliable air travel will also help encourage businesses to invest in the region and create jobs.”
“Airports are a critical part of Michigan’s infrastructure,” Peters said. “This grant will help Muskegon County Airport conduct the maintenance and upkeep necessary to operate at the highest standard and ensure a pleasant flight for travelers.”
The first part of the grant will go toward rehabilitating the pavement of the airport’s two runways and taxiways, said Jeffrey Tripp, airport manager. This includes redoing pavement markings.
The second part of the grant will reimburse the airport for property it purchased in 2015. The property, approximately two acres of heavily wooded land and a house at 4618 Martin Road, to the west of the airport, was identified in 2005 as a parcel for future acquisition.
The acquisition cost approximately $136,000, Tripp said.
“While there are no immediate plans to develop the property, the acquisition was completed to secure interest to the location. The grant funded the purchase of the property, demolition of the house and tree removal, and relocated the airport perimeter fence to align with Martin Road,” Tripp said.
Not all $802,594 of the grant might need to be spent, Tripp said.
“We might need less than the grant, but we’ll get at least that much, and whatever’s left over will go back into the FAA’s pot of money.”
Muskegon County Airport is a county-owned and -operated airport with about 1,200 acres of land. Last year it saw about 43,000 takeoffs and landings and about 36,000 passengers, Tripp said. It services United Airlines via SkyWest.
The estimated annual economic impact of the airport to the community is $55 million, Tripp said.
“I think if you look at air service in general, it’s continued to grow. Whether for work or leisure, those numbers continue to grow nationwide,” he said.