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Airport money expansion sought

Published (3/13/2009)
By Mike Cook
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A late-2003 study indicated that the St. Cloud Regional Airport is the likeliest reliever facility to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport because of its location, accessibility and the region’s population growth.

However, the study also spoke of a lack of infrastructure. That resulted in an update of the airport’s master plan to provide better accommodations.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Haws (DFL-St. Cloud), HF851 would provide $2 million in bonding to purchase land adjacent to the facility, provided an equal amount of nonstate money is part of the package. St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said that would be a half-cent regional sales tax increase approved by voters.

“We may not need it tomorrow. We may not need it in 10 years, but this is property that needs to be acquired as soon as possible to ensure this airport can grow,” said Airport Director Bill Towle.

“This is really essential to making sure we have a buffer zone, so we don’t have economic development infringing,” added Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids).

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, SF1013, sponsored by Sen. Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Budget and Policy Division.

Two years ago, the airport received a similar, locally matched $4 million bond amount. Towle said that money would nearly be spent when the acquisition of five more parcels is completed. A planned crosswind runway would use some of the acquired land.

“Right now, St. Cloud has one air carrier or large aircraft runway. It’s 7,000 feet, and we don’t have a second runway that can handle that kind of traffic,” Towle said. He said a second runway would help attract air service to the region. Long-term plans include a parallel runway to the existing landing strip.

He also noted if the lone runway is closed for whatever reason — maintenance, snow removal — there is not a runway that can be used for the larger aircraft.

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