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Airport terminal funding sought

Published (3/13/2009)
By Mike Cook
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People clearing security at Duluth International Airport best hope they do not need to use a restroom before boarding an aircraft. Doing so means leaving the gate area and having to go through the screening process once again to return to the gate area.

Sponsored by Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), HF83 would provide $4.9 million in bonding proceeds for a new airport terminal on a current short-term parking lot. “Our current terminal presents a number of Homeland Security and (Federal Aviation Administration) issues, and is not well-equipped to process passengers, nor accommodate them once they pass through security screening,” Huntley said. “The building was designed long before Sept. 11, and it really can’t be adapted to the current way we need to treat people in an airport.”

The bill was held over March 5 by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division for its possible bonding recommendations to the House Capital Investment Finance Division.

A companion, SF36, sponsored by Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Committee.

Current funding calls for federal dollars to make up about one-half of the $64.9 million project. Proponents seek $16.6 million in state bonding between this year and next; the Duluth Airport Authority is to fund $7.8 million; and $7 million is to come from the State Airports Trust Fund.

“This project is also on the list for federal stimulus money,” said Brian Ryks, executive director of the authority. “We think we’re positioned well to get some stimulus money.”

He said the project would create more than 200 construction jobs. Federal money was received last year for planning, and the shovel-ready project is to be bid May 7.

Ryks said the airport has a $1.3 billion regional economic impact, and statistics show that many regional travelers drive to the city, and spend the night before hopping on their flight.

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