Saturday, August 18, 2007

Prince George airport receives funding for expansion

Some 12 million Federal dollars are on the way to the Prince George Airport, all to help expand that city's runway to over 11,000 feet and provide it with a footprint in the global air trade. Still to come and apparently on the way will be 12 million or so from the Provincial government to go along with an eleven million dollar loan contribution already promised by the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

Prince George airport and economic officials are hoping to capitalize on the expanded world trade options provided by the soon to open Fairview Container Port, Prince George has its eye on the trans world shipping industry hoping to make the interior city a shipping point to the world.

Funding flying into P.G.
By Arthur Williams

Prince George Free Press
Aug 17 2007

The Treasury Board of Canada approved federal funding for the expansion of the Prince George Airport main runway Wednesday.

The $36 million project will expand the runway from 7,400 ft. to 11,400 ft. in two stages. The extension would allow fully-loaded Boeing 747s – the workhorse of the air cargo industry – to take off and land in most weather conditions.

“There is no ifs, ands or buts now about the Treasury Board funding the project,” Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris said. “I think it’s a great investment for the federal government because it’s going to dramatically enhance the economic opportunities for the area. It’s also going to open up a whole new sector as far as the aerospace sector is concerned – light maintenance and refuelling.”

Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn announced $11 million for the project on Jan. 12, but the project needed the approval of Western Economic Diversification before funding could be dispersed. At the time, the estimated cost was $33 million.

“The Treasury Board wasn’t expected to meet on this until almost October, but [Prince George-Peace River MP] Jay Hill and I worked on them, and they called an extraordinary meeting and signed off on it,” Harris said.

Last November, the Northern Development Initiative Trust agreed to loan the Prince George Airport Authority one-third of the project cost. Victoria is expected to fund the remaining third of the project, but as of press time no announcement had been made.

“The commitment the province made was contingent on federal funding,” Harris said Thursday morning. “I fully expect there will be an announcement – maybe even today.”

Airport authority chairman Jim Blake said he believes the federal funding has increased from $11 million to $12 million to meet the rising cost of the project.

“[But] until we have the $12 million from the province we can’t go ahead,” Blake said. “The bids are in on the first phase of the expansion. As soon as we have confirmation of the funding, we can go ahead.”

If provincial funding coming in the next few days or weeks, some work could begin on the expansion this year.

“Our MLAs are working very hard on this,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge it is coming.”
According to a report by the airport authority, the goal of the expansion is to attract air cargo traffic travelling between North America and Asia.

In 2005, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, handled 53,699 flights on the North America-Asia route. Air traffic was growing seven per cent a year and both airports were near their maximum capacity. Prince George – which is closer to the North America-Asia route than the Alaskan airports – would only have to attract 1,500 flights a year to be a economically viable as a refuelling hub. A refuelling industry could create as many as 700 jobs.
over the next decade.

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