Local airports will be seeing a windfall from the recent bipartisan federal infrastructure package.
President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law in November. Mississippi will receive $3.3 billion for roads and highways, $225 million for bridge replacement and repair, a minimum of $100 million for broadband infrastructure and $282 million for water infrastructure.
According to a press release from Sen. Roger Wicker’s office issued Thursday, $19,859,920 has been set aside for the state’s 63 airports. The money may be used for repairs and improvements, although specific guidelines have not yet been set.
Golden Triangle Regional Airport will receive $1,033,512 every year for five years through the program, said Executive Director Mike Hainsey.
GTRA, which has a single 8,000-foot runway, offers eastbound Delta service but also frequently hosts charters and operations from Columbus Air Force Base.
Hainsey said in recent years the airport has repaved its runway and overhauled its ramps, as well as upgraded its terminal and replaced many of its lights with LEDs.
All that being said, Hainsey noted the airport will certainly find a use for the money.
“We are not going to be in a rush to spend it,” he said. “Whatever we use it for, we plan on it being something long-term.”
He said the GTRA board has talked about repaving some of the access roads, as well as possibly building a perimeter road for fuel trucks to use and repairing the entrance road off of Airport Road.
“We also have to look at our control tower, which is 15 years old,” he said. “The fire station is 20 years old. Both need to be upgraded. We also have one ramp that’s still using non-LED lights, and we plan on replacing those for the sake of energy efficiency.”
The Columbus-Lowndes County Airport will receive $159,000 annually for five years through the program. Interim Manager Dan Duston said he wasn’t sure yet what the airport could spend its money on.
“An airport always has more improvement (needs) than funding,” he said. “This money will allow us to tackle some of the challenges we have and will give us a boost to make our airport a better asset to the community.”
If it fits the eventual regulations, Duston said the airport’s master plan calls for the 4,500-foot runway to be extended to 5,000 feet.
“That would allow us more jet access,” he said. “Lots of charter companies have insurance requirements that they land on 5,000-foot runways. It’s not that they can’t use a runway shorter than that, that’s just the minimum for insurance.”
The hangars are “old and distressed,” Duston said, and rehabilitation or replacement could be another area airport officials consider.
“We have about 30 berths now,” he said. “There’s only one enclosed hangar. The rest are either three-sided or open, meaning it’s just a roof. One of the hangars out holds eight (planes) and is one of the original buildings. It needs to be rehabbed or replaced.”
Over in Starkville, the George M. Bryant Field is set to get $295,000 a year for five years.
“There will be multiple opportunities to use those funds,” said Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill. “The airport is a huge benefit to the community, and has many flights coming in for athletic events and business, too. We’ve talked about hangar improvements, taxiway improvements and upgraded lighting in the past, and I’m sure some, or all, of those will qualify.”