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Communities clamor for better airports statewide

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Friday, September 01, 2006

STATEWIDE — Aviation consultant Mead & Hunt has recommended to the Oregon Department of Aviation (ODA) that it implement a new airport classification system to offer “guidance regarding what facilities should be providing service to the flying public.” The new model would update the performance criteria that define the level of service, facilities, and the role that each airport plays within the state’s aviation system.

Most community leaders and residents with a stake in the state’s aviation system see a vital need to upgrade statewide airport facilities in order to spur economic growth. Preliminary findings show people worried about airport storage, parking, runways, navigational aids and weather services.

The ODA commissioned consultant Mead & Hunt to update its system plan, study the economic impact of airports and help craft a statewide aviation master plan that would serve as a blueprint to improve the state’s commercial and general aviation airports. Says Stephanie Ward, a senior aviation planner with Mead & Hunt: “With money as tight as it is, [this effort] will help determine where the money should go.”

The Oregon Transportation Committee, through the Connect Oregon initiative, recently awarded just over $18 million to aviation projects. The committee earmarked $7.5 million of the funds for the terminal expansion at Roberts Field in Redmond, about $4 million for improvements to the air cargo facilities in Eugene, nearly $2 million for a runway expansion in Grant County, $1.6 million toward the deployment of a real-time traffic and weather data system at six airports, and $1 million each to a jet factory service center in Klamath Falls and a runway extension in Ontario.

The updated system plan, economic impact report and aviation master plan would collectively provide a more comprehensive resource than the existing 2000 Oregon Aviation Plan by evaluating the role of each airport in the system and how each facility impacts the overall operational capacity and efficiency of the system. 

The research and analysis project continues this month with meetings with 15 agencies connected to Oregon’s aviation industry. Mead & Hunt plans to present its analysis to the advisory committee at a set of regional workshops this winter.

— Robert H. Hamrick

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