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Grant to benefit airport

August 08, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin kicked off his first official visit to Washington County on Tuesday with a press conference at Hagerstown Regional Airport, a facility that has benefited greatly since Cardin took office in January.

"We're really pleased to have him here. He's done a lot for us," Airport Development Manager Gregory Larsen said as he arranged chairs at the podium just before Cardin spoke.

Cardin, D-Md., spoke to a crowd of about 20 local officials and businessmen in the airport's terminal, announcing a $2.9 million federal grant that will be directed to the airport to help realign one of its taxiways.

"This is a great, great facility that I wanted to come see firsthand. It's important not only for commercial air service but for businesses as well," Cardin said.

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In the past two months, Cardin has funneled more than $10 million in federal funds to the airport and introduced a bill that would extend the airport's ability to provide passenger airline service for five years.

"We are extremely excited about all of the things Mr. Cardin has done for us. He has been really proactive with regard to this airport," Airport Director Carolyn Motz said.

Last Thursday, Cardin and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., introduced a bill that would force the airport's passenger airline carrier, Air Midwest, to continue flights to the airport by extending the Essential Air Service program for five years. The program, which is scheduled to end in September, subsidizes airlines that fly to airports in small communities. Air Midwest officials have said they will not continue to fly to the airport without the annual $650,000 subsidy because it is not financially viable to do so.

"The airport is critical to keeping Western Maryland's economy moving. I will continue to fight to keep Marylanders on the go and for a federal investment in these communities," Cardin said.

The $2.9 million grant announced Tuesday will pay to relocate a taxiway used by businesses, according to Mahesh Kukata, a construction consultant for the airport. The taxiway will be moved away from I-81 to make room for a new hangar.

After the press conference, Cardin toured the airfield and watched workers pave sections of the airport's runway extension. Cardin and Mikulski secured $7.3 million of federal funding in June for the project, which will be finished by the end of the year. The runway will be lengthened from approximately 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet and will extend over U.S. 11.

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