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Federal grants to fund airport firefighting projects

Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport
Brainerd Dispatch file photo

An airport rescue firefighting vehicle and associated equipment is on the docket for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport thanks to annual funding from the federal Airport Improvement Program.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced Tuesday, June 30, $689 million in grants from the Airport Improvement Program, which provides funds for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

The investment, Chao said in a news release, “will strengthen safety, improve travel, generate jobs and provide many economic benefits for local communities,” with grants going to airports in 46 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Marshall Islands.

“These 383 grants will allow airport sponsors to either begin or complete construction projects that will maintain the safety and efficiency of our national airport system,” FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said in a news release.

Steve Wright, director of the Brainerd airport, said the funds allow for capital improvement projects each year. This year, along with the firefighting vehicle and equipment, the money will go toward a runway pavement repair project.

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This funding is on top of nearly $18 million the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport expects to receive from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. These funds can be used for operational and capital needs. Wright previously said that will mean making sure airport tenants continue to operate and air service remains available for essential travelers.

Air traffic is picking back up in Brainerd now, Wright said, after it had decreased by about 95% toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s definitely some great programs going on here at the airport. The passengers are beginning to come back, so air travel is starting to flow through the airport,” Wright said. “And coming up on the July 4th weekend here, we're at our kind of peak season now in the Brainerd area, and our corporate jets and our general aviation community continues to fly in, and it's all picking up a little bit.”

The Staples Municipal Airport received $250,000 from the Airport Improvement Program.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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