A Rite Bros. Aviation Cessna sits outside the terminal building at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A Rite Bros. Aviation Cessna sits outside the terminal building at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Peninsula airports receive funding

Infrastructure bill also aids transit

It’s just .0001891 percent of the pie.

But the sliver still means new capital projects for the Port of Port Angeles and Port of Port Townsend.

More than $2 million in funding for the North Olympic Peninsula’s two international airports will be drawn from billions contained in a $1.2 trillion bill approved Friday by federal lawmakers.

The bill also includes new grant opportunities for transportation districts such as Clallam Transit and Jefferson Transit Authority.

Williams R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles and Jefferson County International Airport in Port Townsend will receive, over five years, a combined $2.27 million slice of funding in new federal infrastructure funding for roads, bridges, broadband and other new capital projects, according to totals released by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.

“I’m just glad we have some money allocated for the airport from the transportation budget because we operate the airport at a loss every year,” said Steven Burke, Port of Port Angeles board president.

Guaranteed allocations will include $1.48 million to Fairchild Airport and $790,000 for the Port of Port Townsend’s Jefferson County International Airport as part of $15 billion in the $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act portion of the $1.2 trillion bill, Cantwell’s office said.

Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Eron Berg said the funding will advance the tax district’s five-year program for replacing the underground fueling apparatus with an above-ground system and building a new airport terminal with a passenger waiting area rather than moving an existing building to the site.

“It won’t be anything as big as Fairchild’s, but if it’s raining, a small group can sit there and wait for a taxi and be able to use the bathroom,” Berg said.

“It definitely helps,” said Geoff James, executive director of the Port of Port Angeles, the tax district that operates Fairchild.

“It’s a matter of what do we need to apply that to.”

Transit systems

The bill includes $39 billion to modernize transit systems and improve access for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Transit agencies will be eligible for competitive and noncompetitive grants, including $1.79 billion in new funding, that could make it more possible for Clallam Transit to purchase electric buses and build electric-bus infrastructure, general manager Kevin Gallacci said Tuesday.

Jefferson Transit and Clallam Transit will be eligible to draw from a five-year funding program from 2022-2026.

“Since we are a small transit to medium, we apply to the state and they finalize our application,” Gallacci said.

Clallam Transit has had applications for electric buses already turned down. High-traffic areas are commonly awarded that funding.

“That may change,” Gallacci said. “This is good news for transit. It certainly is.”

Jefferson Transit General Manager Tammi Rubert predicted the funds could require tighter tracking than past allocations.

Like port officials, she said there are still unknowns about what the funding can be spent on and how it must be administered.

Haines Place

One priority for Jefferson Transit is Port Townsend’s Haines Place Transit Center. Rubert said it’s at capacity as the agency prepares to expand service with trips to the Kingston Ferry Terminal beginning in February.

Improvements at the park-and-ride could include electric-vehicle charging stations.

Funding applications may be due in two or three months.

“We will bring forward our most-needed projects,” Rubert said.

Fairchild plans

James said Tuesday that Fairchild’s long-range plans include runway and taxiway improvements and, potentially, relocating hangars and the terminal.

The bill appropriates $5 billion over five years for competitive grants for airport terminal development projects, of which $500 million is for non-hub and non-primary airports, according to the Port of Port Angeles’ Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm, FBB Federal Relations.

The port’s infrastructure funding could be linked up with FAA programs as matching funds, he said, adding it remains to be seen if it can be used for non-aeronautical purposes.

James was unsure if it could be spent on beefing up the airport industrial park’s electrical infrastructure, such as the vacant 93,000-square-foot 1010 building, to make it more attractive to businesses, which port Commissioner Colleen McAleer said at Tuesday’s port commissioners’ meeting is a shortfall.

“We’ve lost businesses that wanted to come there,” McAleer said after the meeting. “One was a $200 million investment with 200 jobs starting at $23 an hour. We couldn’t work out the power needs.”

Most of the $15 billion for airports is dedicated to primary flight fields, such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which will receive $228.3 million.

Fourteen other flight fields in Washington state received $1.48 million each, including Olympia Regional, Auburn Municipal and Skagit Regional airports.

Jefferson County International Airport will receive the same amount as 18 other flight facilities, including airports on Lopez and Orcas Islands and Sanderson Field in Shelton.

The $1.2 trillion bill approved Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives includes $650 billion for urban, high-population-density areas to ease congestion and facilitate freight movement on major roads such as the Interstate Highway System.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Steve Burke

Steve Burke

Eron Berg

Eron Berg

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