The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 16, 2014

Four regional airports net funds for upgrades

— Four airports in the region are on the receiving end of a piece of the $18 million in federal and state grant money alloted for airport improvement projects around Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s office announced Wednesday through a press release that 35 state airports, including Ebensburg Airport, Bedford County Airport, Indiana County/Jimmy Stewart Airport and Somerset County Airport, will each receive six-digit figures.

PennDOT’s contribution of $904,981, which is drawn from the state’s jet fuel tax, is being matched by local funds, the release states.

The other $17.1 million comes from Federal Aviation Administration block grants. Airports can receive up to 90 percent of the cost for projects eligible under the state’s 12-year transportation program.

The release briefly details the projects.

• At Bedford County Airport, $316,666 will go toward acquiring land and rehabilitating the airport’s weather observation system.

• At Ebensburg Airport, $227,110 will go toward installing navigational aids to assist pilots in landing.

• At Jimmy Stewart Airport, $354,666 will go toward removing obstructions and acquiring snow removal equipment.

• At Somerset County Airport, $376,833 will go toward removing runway obstructions.

“We’ve identified very well all of our obstructions. This will be a very intense and well thought out obstruction removal project,” said David Wright, manager of Somerset County Airport.

“We’re about a third of the way through an extensive airport master plan update,” he said.

Wright explained that runway obstructions – like trees that root into the runway’s angled approach surface or nearby buildings – usually aren’t hazardous, except in low visibility situations, when pilots have to rely on their instruments to land.

He added that the airport is currently in the midst of a $220,000 grant-funded project to replace navigational aids. The airport’s automated weather observation system also was recently upgraded. The old device will be maintained in the terminal for “historical sake,” Wright said.

The John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport was not named as a recipient, however, a PennDOT spokeswoman said the airport may be receiving its funds directly from the FAA.

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @JustinDennis.

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