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Waiting for takeoff: Dickinson airport looks toward new facility as funding is questionable

Preliminary plans for a complete makeover of the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport were open for the public to peruse Thursday evening at an open house held at City Hall.

The project would extend the runway to 7,700 feet, making it more fortified to cater to larger aircraft. Alongside it would be an equally long taxiway, which will also serve as a temporary runway while the new runway is constructed.

The plan also entails a new terminal building, parking lot, commercial service apron, and a new building for firefighting and snow removal equipment, among other features.

Around 240 acres of land will need to be acquired either through easements, fee simple, or both. Approximately 17 acres the airport owns now will not be needed and subsequently released.

During the open house, airport manager Kelly Braun estimated that just the runway and taxiway will cost roughly $64 million.

The project is needed, as the airport’s current runway is slowly falling into disrepair as a result of the heavy traffic it experienced during the oil boom. There is a plan this year to patch up cracks that have formed as a means of keeping it operational until the new taxiway is constructed.

“This isn’t a capacity-driven project,” Braun told those who had come to the open house, explaining it wasn’t a bid to try and support any greater influx of passengers that are already coming through the airport’s gates.

Rather, he said it was “standards-driven,” in that the airport has to upgrade the runway just to comply with federal regulations.

When a landowner asked if the runway would be made for larger aircraft that might never come to the area, Braun and KLJ engineer Tom Schauer responded that the larger aircraft were definitely coming, as the ones the airport currently sees are being phased out.

Braun said the project is divided in funding in that, the way it is laid out for now, the city and the state would each contribute 5 percent, while the Federal Aviation Administration would fund 90 percent. The project would be built in stages as the funding comes in over a period of four or five years.

However, Braun said the state funding, which would cover all of the land easements needed before the project proceeds, is the most uncertain factor in terms of how much it will ultimately participate in the project.

Braun informed the Dickinson Airport Authority board earlier in the day at a regular meeting that he received a call from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission last week informing him that, due to low oil revenues in the state, it did not seem likely that the airport would receive state funding this year.

Braun said the state’s Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office, where the state funding would come from, only has $48 million in funds as opposed to its projected $149 million.

As a result, the $5.8 million for airport projects that the Aeronautics Commission planned to receive from the EIIO was cut down by $4.5 million.

“It definitely is going to delay our projects probably a year,” Braun said.

Chairman Jon Frantsvog agreed with the others in the room that it was more of an inconvenience than a derailment.

“There were forces in play already that have been slowing us down,” he said.

Andrew Wernette

Wernette came to The Dickinson Press from his home state of Michigan in April 2015 as reporter for the newspaper's energy, political, crime, courts and cops beats. Before The Press, Wernette worked at his university's newspaper as a section editor, as well as interned at a local county paper as a reporter. Outside of work, he enjoys reading, writing, cooking, taking a stroll and planning his next world travel adventure.

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