By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
McKenzie County roads and highways are not the only local infrastructure experiencing an influx in traffic due to an increase in oil activity. The local air traffic has also seen an upsurge.
The Watford City Municipal Airport is reportedly receiving more flights than in past years. According to Tim Taylor, chairman of the airport board, a long-term plan has been created to update and expand the airport to accommodate more traffic and larger planes.
“Air traffic is roughly five times more than what it was three years ago,” Taylor said. “A lot of the flights landing and taking off here are related to the building and construction going on in Watford City.”
In 2014, the airport board plans to begin two major projects. They plan to construct and expand the parking apron and build a new airport terminal for roughly $3.5 million.
The primary reason for these projects is simply because the building and apron are old and in pretty rough condition, Taylor said. The apron is over 20 years old and was originally made with asphalt, which is overdue for replacement. The terminal, which is a trailer house currently, has been in place for nearly 40 years. Taylor said the structure is aged and not nearly big enough for the traffic at the airport.
“For a lot of folks flying into Watford City, the airport is the first thing they see,” Taylor said. “It’s their first impression of Watford City.”
The new airport terminal will offer a place for people who are flying in to meet family or business partners as well as be a place for pilots to relax and rest in-between flights, according to Taylor.
“We always need to update and expand to accommodate additional growth and activity,” Taylor said.
These improvements are necessary, but won’t cost the community an arm and a leg, according to Taylor.
“It’s not going to cost McKenzie County and Watford City the full amount,” Taylor said. “We are leveraging money from other outside sources to get things done.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is contributing $327,000 to use toward the apron project. The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission is providing $2,332,000 for both major projects combined. The Roughrider Committee is granting the airport $700,000 toward the 2014 construction, which leaves only $216,000 more to come up with locally.
“The oil boom taxes are allowing us to follow through with these projects,” Taylor said. “The airport doesn’t generate much in profits, so we really depend on outside funding sources. The federal and local governments help build our airport.”
Taylor said McKenzie County has been allotting the airport $30,000 annually and Watford City also budgets $30,000 for the airport each year, which is a great help.
If funding is available, Taylor said the airport board would also like to expand the vehicle parking area.
There are six new hangars in the process of being built by private individuals from the community. And Taylor said there is roughly enough space for an additional six more, but those won’t go up right away.
“We had set aside ground for the hangars because many people had been asking about building them for years,” Taylor said. “They began building them last fall and they should be complete in two months.”
Other future projects include expanding the runway from 4,400 feet to 5,000 feet and adding a parallel taxiway to accommodate even larger aircraft. This project could take up to five years to complete and could exceed $10 million, Taylor said.