Digging Deeper: Airport project stalls with FAA impasse - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: Airport project stalls with FAA impasse

Construction on the new terminal at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport has come to a halt, because Congress failed to agree on a bill to continue funding the Federal Aviation Administration.

Across the nation dozens of stop-work orders have been issued for major airport projects.

Bids will be opened later this week for construction of the new Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Terminal, but they won't be awarded without an end to furloughs ordered at the FAA.

The airport director says it's all over $200 million in EAS or Essential Air Services funding.

 "A small EAS market is an airport that board 10,000 enplanements a year or less," said Yvette Aehle, Airport Director.

Those small airports get funding from the government to help pay their bills. That's not Albany's airport. Digging Deeper we learned the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport enplanes about 40,000 passengers a year, customers who appreciate what the service offers.

"This airport is very convenient I hate that travel up to Atlanta just to drive two and a half, three hours, even two hours down to Tallahassee, it's just ridiculous," said passenger Alan Huston.

 "It's easier to get in and out and get to Atlanta and make your connecting flights to where ever you need to go," said Passenger Sandra Jest.

Albany's Airport handles about 24,000 aircraft a year. It's also the second largest cargo airport in the state, not to mention the private air service that also uses the air field. We learned all of that service counts toward grants awarded to the airport for improvements to the runway or construction of a new terminal. The airport's director sympathizes with smaller airports that count on that government funding.

"They want to continue to see their air service and those airports are in places like Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan that really don't have any large hubs nearby," said Aehle.

Customers using Albany's airport don't want it's improvement to be held up in a political tug of war.

"As we pursue to get more economic development in our communities, I think it's important for us to ave an airport to allow people to come closer to where we want them to see, our small communities and what we have to offer," said passenger Zelda Collier.

Knowing how vital an airport and the air service it offers can be to the communities they serve. 

Airport officials say if the FAA is back to work in the next several weeks, they can likely get the funding in place and move the Albany's airport's new terminal project forward.

If it's delayed more than that, funding may be pushed to the next fiscal year which would delay the project until spring.


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