Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., was at the Minot International Airport Friday afternoon to urge support for a proposed expansion project that would include a new passenger terminal.
The airport has experienced a rapid increase in usage. Boardings are up 57 percent in the past 12 months. Parking for vehicles at the airport has outgrown existing lots.
"Of cities under 50,000 people, Minot is the fifth-fastest growing community in the country," said Hoeven. "The economy is growing. The population is growing. Airport boardings are growing dramatically and there's more and more flights are coming in here all the time."
Attending a press briefing and tour of the Minot International Airport on Friday were State Aeronautics Commissioner Larry Taborsky, Bismarck; Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman; Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND; and Andy Solsvig, airport director. An expansion project has begun at the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently awarded the airport an $8.7 million grant funded by Congress to construct a new taxiway, complete construction on a second taxiway and fund the design of a new passenger terminal. Some dirt work on the taxiways has already begun. The new terminal is expected to exceed 100,000 square feet and be built to accommodate future expansion. The size of the existing terminal is slightly over 30,000 square feet.
At Friday's press conference, Mayor Curt Zimbelman cited the significance of the project.
"It is important for our community. It is what people see first. Right now we have outgrown what we have," Zimbelman said.
The number of airline passengers utilizing the airport has grown from 5,000 a month to as many as 20,000.
Airport Director Andy Solsvig explained the main features of the project, saying that he was still working with tenants and airlines to make certain all of their needs will be addressed within the proposed terminal. In addition, said Solsvig, the new terminal building would be designed with future expansion in mind.
"We plan for 20 years out, not just five," said Solsvig. "There's a lot of design work going on right now in preparation for next year's construction season."
According to Hoeven, the goal is to complete construction of the new terminal by the fall of 2014. Part of the $8.7 million dollar grant will be used to fund a final terminal design. Solsvig said the design was "40 percent complete now."
The new terminal would be located east of the existing terminal, meaning the building that currently houses the airport's snow removal equipment would have to be removed. Plans call for a new snow removal equipment building to be built south of the Fire Department Training Center. The training center is to be located elsewhere to make room for additional airport parking.
The master plan for the entire airport improvement project carries a price tag of nearly $100 million. According to a news release issued by Hoeven, the airport is eligible for an estimated $47.5 million in additional FAA Airport Improvement Program grants. The city and state would provide matching funding.
To help make the case for the funding of Minot's airport project, Hoeven was joined in Friday's press session and airport tour by Susan Schalk, FAA Airports Division Manager; Andy Peek, FAA Acting Airports Manager for North Dakota; and Larry Taborsky, State Aeronautics Commissioner.