May 29, 2024
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Region’s airports get $8.4M in federal funds


The first installments of federal funding from President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law are headed to the Tri-Counties, in the form of grants to upgrade the region’s airports.

Following Biden’s signing of the infrastructure bill last month, the initial round of funds will deliver more than $8.4 million to airports on the Central Coast and more than $4.86 billion in Federal Highway Administration funds to improve roads, bridges and highways in California.

In total, the Federal Aviation Administration plans to allocate $2.89 billion to airport infrastructure projects across the country, according to a Dec. 16 news release from U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Airport got more than half of the region’s airport funding, at $3.7 million, with the rest going to airports in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Lompoc, the Santa Ynez Valley, Oxnard and Camarillo.

Airports can apply for grant funding for projects related to runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability, terminal development, airport-transit connections and roadway projects.

The funding will go into a pool of money for an annual airport improvement program, said Keith Freitas, Ventura County’s director of airports.

The Oxnard Airport received $295,000, while Camarillo got $763,000, Freitas said.

The funding will be “very helpful” for the two airports, he said.

“We have things like taxiway pavement improvements and a couple of noise studies,” Freitas said. “Those are high on our list. … We will go make our pitch for the FAA to get those funded.”

The Santa Maria Public Airport was allocated slightly more than $1 million, and San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, which includes airports in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, received more than $2.3 million, according to a joint news statement from U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats.

Additionally, both the Santa Ynez Airport and the Lompoc Airport received $159,000.

Chris Hastert, general manager of the Santa Maria Public Airport, confirmed that the airport was allocated funds, but he didn’t have details yet about the restrictions on what projects the money can be used for.

“We have several capital projects that are FAA grant eligible that I would guess these funds could be used for,” Hastert said in an email to the Business Times, adding that the first two projects by priority are taxiway reconstruction and upgrades, and runway pavement rehabilitation.

The FAA notified Santa Barbara Airport officials on Dec. 16 that their airport was getting more than $3.7 million.

“This is the very first notification we have received and typically we will be expecting a lot more information from the FAA about how to qualify for these funds,” said Deanna Zachrisson, the Santa Barbara Airport’s business development manager. “We have a number of planned capital projects over the next few years, much of it already supported to some degree by grant funding, but it’s too early to know if any of these projects will fall within the parameters for additional funding, or if there are other projects that we might identify that could qualify for unanticipated funding.”

Zachrisson said Santa Barbara Airport officials should know more details in early 2022. 

In a statement announcing the new federal funding, Carbajal said the infrastructure funds “will go a long way to improve quality of life on the Central Coast.”

Additional allocations from the bill are coming and will include resources to expand internet access, improve water programs and enhance public transit, Carbajal’s office said.