Millions in Federal Aviation Administration grants are headed to Alaska airports

$85 million for 19 airports statewide
A large aircraft leaving the runway at the Bethel Airport.
A large aircraft leaving the runway at the Bethel Airport.(JoeJoe Prince)
Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska needs airports and airplanes to meet the needs of the state, and in a rugged place like Alaska, safety is a top priority. Although airport projects are not cheap, with $85 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants 19 airports across the state are getting some help with those costs.

The grant money will be spent on all things related to aviation safety from runway and taxiway repairs to the purchase of snow removal equipment. Millions of dollars of funding are being funneled to airports as big as Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to ones as small as those in King Cove and Cold Bay.

Deputy Regional Administrator of the FAA Alaska Region Jacki Holzman said that the money is going to the airports without any matching funds necessary.

“Through the American Rescue Plan Act, these funds are provided at 100% Federally,” Holzman said. “Under the normal airport improvement program grants, there is a small local match for those grants.”

Holzman added that there are plans to send more than $200 million in grants to Alaska throughout 2021. However, not all will be covered the same way through the American Rescue Plan Act.

She added that the money all comes from the Airport and Airway trust fund, which is supported by ticket fees, fuel taxes and other aviation revenue sources. The amount that each airport receives from the $85 million is determined by the project needs at each airport.

On the list of benefiting airports, the Bethel Airport is taking the largest portion with $34.3 million. The funds will be used for reinforcing the strength of the runway, reconstructing and rehabilitating the taxiway, an airport lighting vault, and emergency generator and airport guidance signs and buy snow removal equipment, according to the release.

Design Project Manager for the Alaska Department of Transportation Aaron Hughes is overseeing the efforts at the Bethel Airport where he said they’ve been working on these projects for about three years.

He said there are cracks in the runway all over the place which are sealed but require repairs. Over the last few years, he said bigger aircraft coming through the hub of 57 surrounding communities — like Boeing 747s — have contributed to the wear and tear.

With the money from the grant, along with supplemental funding, Hughes said the hope is to have the taxiway work completed by 2022 and the runway completed by 2023.

For passengers headed through Bethel, Hughes said the experience wouldn’t feel different but it would be safer.

“The service itself won’t change as far as being able to accommodate newer aircraft. It will just help maintain the existing infrastructure that’s out there,” Hughes said.

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