CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Leaders from the Huntington area celebrated a financial commitment to improvements at Tri-State Airport.
They gathered with Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday at the state Capitol to accept a $1 million grant from the state that will be used as a match for a $10 million grant from the federal government.
It was the third time in recent weeks that Justice has pledged state dollars to help a West Virginia airport.
“This airport is the lifeblood,” Justice told a crowd from Huntington.
The money is meant to help airport officials shore up 1,400 feet of runway safety area.
Airport director Brent Brown said troubles became apparent when a dam had been declared illegal by state environmental officials.
As a result, the pond was drained, exposing a slide.
“With the efforts of federal government and state, we’re looking for funds to stabilize slide and improve drainage for the pond,” Brown said.
The project would aim to stabilize the existing slope supporting the runway safety area, requiring more than 1.2 million cubic yards of soil to be moved.
The overall improvement project will be done in multiple phases and has an estimated total cost of $25 million to $35 million to complete.
Congresswoman Carol Miller, R-Cabell, serves on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and was able to help secure $10 million in federal grant money.
But a state match was needed.
“It was a critical component to making this happen,” said Bill Bissett, president of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Justice said the need was clear.
“Part of the runway is in danger. For God’s sakes a living,” Justice said.
So, the administration came up with the million dollars.
“We just scramble around and find a way. So we’re off and going,” Justice said. “It’s a good day and glad to be a part of it.”
Justice has participated in announcements aimed at improving several of West Virginia’s airports in recent weeks.
In July, the governor announced his intention to fund a new U.S. Customs building at Yeager Airport in Charleston. That would cost an estimated $2 million.
Earlier this month, Justice announced his desire to support North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport with $20 million for an infrastructure project.
“We want you to be a gateway to our state and I’ll be your number one cheerleader because this is going to be spectacular beyond belief,” Justice said at that announcement.
The main source for the airport money would be the West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs Development Council, which was created by the Legislature to manage and facilitate funding for infrastructure and other projects.
The Department of Commerce will formally request the funds from the council. Then, leaders with the council will review the request and give final approval before the funds can be officially transferred for use on the project.
“Airports are our heart, they’re our lifeblood, they’re the very first thing that we have to have to start growth,” Justice said today.
“I always believed it’s just this way: it’s airports, it’s schools, and it’s roads. And then, from there, all the other stuff just seems to fall in place.”