The Journal’s View: Airport is worthy of, ready for infrastructure funding
Staff ReportApril 21st, 2022
Spokane International Airport is in a good position to take advantage of competitive funds available for small-hub airports through the federal infrastructure bill. It’s now up to Congress to make that happen.
The airport’s Terminal Renovation and Expansion program, known as TREX, is ready to leave the gates ahead of what most other airports might be working on, says Larry Krauter, Spokane International Airport CEO.
The airport is asking for funds from a couple of sources. First, it’s seeking earmarks of $3 million to $5 million through U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, with the final amount to be negotiated between the Senate and House.
It’s important to show support from the Congressional delegation to keep Spokane International Airport on the Federal Aviation Administration’s radar for the airport’s more aggressive funding request of $65 million. Those dollars are being sought from a limited pot of $200 million available nationwide this year for small-hub airports like ours through the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The FAA will review the requests in July, although Krauter says it isn’t clear when grants will be awarded under the first year of the infrastructure funding.
While there are 72 small-hub airports in the country, Spokane International Airport has a head start on most airports with its shovel-ready first phase of the TREX program.
The project, which was tentatively budgeted last year at $96 million, includes a 64,400-square-foot gate expansion at the west end of Concourse C, a 49,900-square-foot expansion for ground boarding on the east end of that concourse, an expansion of the ticketing lobby, and interior finishing upgrades.
Krauter says questions of readiness and improvements to gate accessibility are part of the application process.
“Shovel-ready does and should give us a leg up,” he says. “We would like to believe our project is one of the first projects ready in the U.S. in the small-hub category.”
As examples of readiness, the airport’s TREX program has been proceeding through the planning process for a number of years, including jurisdictional review and environmental clearance.
Most recently, the project has gone through the city’s pre-development phase, and building permit applications are expected to be filed soon.
Krauter says the airport anticipates funding a portion of the project through bond financing. The bond amount required will depend on how much federal funding it secures.
Bond financing would be repaid through the passenger facility charge, which has been capped at $4.50 per passenger since 2001.
“We want to maximize the nonbond-funded revenue through grants and congressionally directed funding,” he says.
Federal funding for the TREX project also would allow the airport to use the savings in passenger facility charge revenue for other improvements, including the second phase of TREX—a central entrance hall, which is planned to include a consolidated screening checkpoint and a consolidated baggage claim area.
Landing the small-hub airport funding request now would make it more feasible to move forward on the central hall immediately following the Concourse C phase of TREX, Krauter says.
As the airport, which is largely self-funded, serves as an economic catalyst and the front door to the Spokane region, it’s worthy of our support for a federal boost in project funding.
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