Redding airport to use federal stimulus money for airport improvements
By David Benda
May 4, 2009
Updated 11:36 p.m., May 4, 2009
The main runway and the terminal at Redding Municipal Airport are getting a boost from federal stimulus funds.
Work is expected to start this summer on both projects, Airport Manager Rod Dinger said. Redding is getting $600,000 of U.S. Department of Transportation stimulus money to do rubber removal on the runway and put down what Dinger calls a surface “rejuvenator.”
Redding is one of 14 California communities that got $42 million in airport stimulus money.
Dinger said the work should extend the life of the runway pavement for another five years. In 2001, the runway received a $6 million overhaul after the city received a Federal Aviation Administration grant. Runway work is expected last 30 days and shouldn’t affect air service, Dinger said.
Redding will piggyback $475,000 in stimulus money with a $600,000 FAA grant to update its airport terminal. Work will include repairs to the 28-year-old roof, modifications to the heating and air-conditioning system, an exterior paint job, and repairs to a water line. The terminal work should last about six months, Dinger said.
In total, Redding Municipal Airport has received just over $2.3 million in federal funds since September, when the city got a $662,000 FAA grant to help subsidize new commercial air service at the airport. Efforts continue to expand service. Redding must use the $662,000 by Dec. 31, 2011.
Passenger numbers in 2008 at Redding Municipal Airport increased 2 percent, thanks in large part to the busy wildfire season, which brought firefighters from around the country into Shasta County. The airport saw 132,058 travelers pass through its terminal, up from 129,550 in 2007, and the most since 133,412 in 2006. Last year, a record 4,658 U.S. Forest Service personnel came through Redding Municipal Airport, up from 614 in 2007. Meanwhile, Dinger said that Horizon Air – one of two airlines that serve Redding – will probably stop its direct flight to Portland, Ore., later this year, and instead fly direct to Seattle.
Marianne Thompson, branch manager at Village Travel Service in Redding, said the switch to Seattle has potential. But Thompson hopes any flight from Redding to Seattle will leave in the morning. “It would give people better connections and more choices,” Thompson said. Thompson said a morning flight would especially be key in summer so north state travelers could connect to an Alaskan cruise the same day. The cruise ships typically sail out of Seattle at 4 or 5 in the afternoon, Thompson said.
“You need to arrive at the Seattle airport roughly at noon,” Thompson said. Horizon Air spokeswoman Jen Boyer said the switch to Seattle is being considered but nothing is certain.
“The reason is Seattle provides far more connecting opportunities than Portland,” Boyer said Monday. “This new schedule hasn’t been finalized. It won’t be for another couple of weeks.”
Currently, Horizon operates one daily flight to Portland that leaves Redding at 1:05 p.m. Horizon also flies twice a day from Redding to Los Angeles.
Horizon’s daily service to Los Angeles continues to be popular with north state travelers. The carrier saw its passenger numbers in Redding go from 53,297 in 2007 to 61,183 last year.
“Horizon has been running some competitive pricing, so the increase in ridership might also be related to that fact,” Dinger said. Conversely, passenger counts for SkyWest, which contracts with United Airlines, are on a decline as the carrier continues to shuffle service in Redding. SkyWest saw its passenger numbers drop 12 percent in 2008, from 75,051 in 2007 to 65,709. SkyWest’s daily flights to San Francisco shrank from five to four in August. The carrier once operated nine daily flights to San Francisco in 2000, a year before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which severely impacted the airline business.
“We are concerned with the decline,” Dinger said of SkyWest’s Redding numbers. “Those (2008) months equate to some of the poorest performing months since the events of Sept. 11.”
Thompson of Village Travel said ticket prices have at times hurt SkyWest. “A lot of passengers drive to Chico because it can be a whole lot less money for the same service,” Thompson said. A phone message left Tuesday at SkyWest’s headquarters in St. George, Utah, wasn’t returned.