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Williston Basin International Airport to open Oct. 10; New facility ‘truly a community effort,’ official says

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Anthony Dudas, XWA Airport Director, gives a tour of the newly completed $273 million facility, which has its official opening on Oct. 10. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

The newly constructed Williston Basin International Airport (XWA) had a media tour ahead of its official Oct. 10 opening, providing a first look of the completed $273 million project that marks the first brand-new commercial airport since the 1940s.

Sloulin Field was determined to not meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design standards for many of the aircraft currently using the airport, and so efforts started on a new project in 2010, with a groundbreaking held on Oct. 10, 2016.

Exactly three years later, on Oct. 10, operations will officially commence at XWA with a United Airlines flight from Denver scheduled to arrive at 10:15 a.m.

The new facility, completed by JE Dunn Construction, was built to accommodate what is currently needed and includes space for future growth.

It includes such 21st century amenities as passenger boarding bridges, a full restaurant and Williston's only escalators.

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Working on the project was "an amazing privilege," Airport Director Anthony Dudas said.

"I can't say enough for the visionary leadership of the city's leaders to get this project where it is today," he said. "As we transitioned into building a new airport, it took a tremendous partnership with a number of agencies."

Williston City Commissioner Chris Brostuen said XWA "is going to play a large role in the community as we develop."

"It's an unbelievable asset we're rolling out this week," Brostuen said.

In terms of airport development, XWA was an "extremely fast project," Dudas said.

"While it's been nine years through its initial infancy to where we're at today, that is the fastest that I'm aware of that it's even been accomplished in commercial service airport relocation, from its idea to actual commencement of operations," he said.

As with any large scale project, XWA came with challenges.

"There were days where we were wringing hands and wiping sweat off brows. Might have even been a few tears shed," Brostuen said. "There was some hard days and we looked at that calendar and wondered, are we going to meet that date?"

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The design and construction of the new airport required many great partners, Dudas said.

"We've had over 100 different contractors and people involved in making this airport become a reality," he said.

He applauded the efforts of everyone involved in realizing the new facility.

"Their spirit this year to pull all of these different projects across the finish line — we're standing in a commercial terminal, but we really built a small city in the prairie," Dudas said. "We have all that critical infrastructure out here that is required to run a city."

Mayor Howard Klug said the project "probably should have taken us 20 years."

"But like anything else in the Bakken, we don't have 20 years," he said. "The oil industry moves a lot faster than the city of Williston does. Any of our projects, we're affected by a lot of different things that we have to be federally mandated to do that the private industry doesn't have to do."

City Administrator David Tuan called it the biggest infrastructure project the city has ever done.

"We broke the mold a little bit and relied a lot on our staff," he said. "This is really an intense effort not only for Anthony (Dudas), but all of his staff every day for the last three or four years, and our partners in engineering and construction.

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"This is truly a community effort."

Kyle Wanner, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission director, called XWA a "monumental achievement."

"The impact it's going to have today and on future generations cannot be understated," he said. "The State of North Dakota completely understands the benefits that modern air transportation has on our economy, the importance it's going to have to ensure North Dakota maintains its place in the global marketplace, and in making sure our citizens in the state have a higher state of living."

He added, "Having air transportation is absolutely critical to all those efforts."

One major infrastructure component remaining for XWA, a crosswind runway, is scheduled to be constructed next year.

Though the airport had a preview for media and will host visitors on Friday, Oct. 4, the project is not yet finished for Dudas.

"Not until after the plane gets on the ground," he said. "For me, that's when it becomes real."

The final commercial flight coming into Williston's Sloulin Airfield facility, also a United flight, will arrive on Oct. 9 at 4:30 p.m. and depart after 5 p.m.

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