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St. George airport funds still up in the air

City waits for FAA to OK $82 million for new site

ST. GEORGE — City officials here are in a holding pattern as they wait for the Federal Aviation Administration to release $82 million for the St. George replacement airport.

St. George Mayor Dan McArthur said the funding would be issued by the FAA in a letter of intent, which in turn would allow the city to bond for cash to begin construction at the 1,450-acre site.

The mayor said he is expecting the FAA to release $82 million over the next four or five years to St. George for construction of the new airport. St. George will have to match 5 percent of the FAA grant in order to use the funds.

"I've been working on getting the new airport since I was first elected in 1994," McArthur said. "It's been a high priority for me."

The city's current airport sits on a mesa, overlooking downtown St. George, and can't be expanded. The new airport is expected to cost nearly $220 million, more than twice the original estimate.

"Costs have gone up significantly," the mayor said, adding the city is paying $70,000 per acre for land at the new site.

The FAA grant has been an action item on the St. George City Council agenda several times over the past few weeks. St. George airport manager Mike LaPier said he had to pull the item off the agenda at the last minute more than once because he didn't receive official verification of the funding from the FAA.

"We're just waiting for the official word," he said.

The replacement airport is located about five miles southeast of St. George on the old Civil Aeronautics Airport site. The FAA released a record of decision in support of the new airport and identified it as a "fast track" project last year, providing an initial grant of $17.2 million to the city.

Once the new airport site is up and running, the old airport property will be sold for an estimated $45 million, McArthur said.

The new airport will be able to handle traffic from bigger, faster regional jets, something that SkyWest Airlines has pushed for several years. Precision instrument landing on a 9,300-foot runway will handle regional jets carrying up to 100 passengers.