Work Essentially Finished on $15 Million Earth-Moving Project at Airport; Local, State Officials to Celebrate

By Jeff Toquinto on August 15, 2022 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Back in February of 2001, then Benedum Airport Authority President Roger Diaz knew the airport needed a new terminal building. He, however, also knew the realities of the airport and the economy at the time.
 
Diaz, who has as much knowledge about the facility as anyone, labeled it, “pie in the sky,” but also said he could not say “that it would not happen.” The key to perhaps getting the airport in position to pull off what even then would have been a multi-million-dollar project was simple Diaz said.
 
“I think a lot of new terminal possibilities could be enhanced if we could attract another carrier to the airport,” said Diaz back in 2001, “… and help with our numbers problems.”
 
The numbers in 2001 were the passengers. Fast forward to 2022, passenger numbers is no longer a problem. The arrival of Allegiant several years ago provided the passengers and the carrier Diaz said was needed to make it happen.
 
As of many know, Diaz’s forecasting two decades ago was right on the money. And tomorrow, Tuesday, August 16, proof of that will be done with Gov. Jim Justice at the airport to lead a ceremony that will not only officially signify the work to create the land for a new terminal is essentially finished but set the stage for the West Virginia Aero Park.
 
The site, just off of State Route 279, which once housed a mountain now hosts about 100 acres of flat developable land after Wolfe’s Excavating removed roughly 3 million square feet of earth.
 
“There is a 17-acre tract for the terminal and then there is an 83-acre tract where you will see the Aero Park,” said NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock of an earth-moving project in excess of $15 million with all fees included.
 
Rock was on the Airport Authority back in 2001 when Diaz served as president. At that time, Rock served as the Authority’s accountant.
 
“It’s true that this project has been in the Airport Authority’s radar for a long time, even back around 2000 our terminal was around 40 years old and outliving its useful life,” said Rock. “We knew we had potential here economically and with our flights.
 
“West Virginia Air Center (now Mitsubishi) was starting to hit its stride so we knew with them and the others in place the economic side could boom, but Roger was definitely right regarding the terminal, even though it was needed then,” Rock continued. “You have to generate the need. We have that now with 100,000 people roughly going in and out of the airport each year thanks to good partnerships with airlines.”
 
While the need was there, the funding was not when talks went from “pie in the sky” to on the ground reality. The initial funding arrived in August of 2019 when Justice announced at a press conference in the terminal building the airport was awarded a $10 million West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs Development Council grant as well as a loan for the same amount from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.
 
Despite that massive amount of funding, more has been needed. Last month, on July 8, the airport received a $15 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. Current Airport Authority President David Hinkle said that will cover a large portion of the estimated $25 million new terminal that also includes a new tarmac, taxiway, and parking facilities.
 
Hinkle also said the airport still has the $10 million loan at its disposal. However, with what he said was more than $30 million in grants in place and looking to land more, he said the Authority will try to avoid debt if possible. Included in that $30 million was a Department of Transportation grant of $2,523,585 announced by Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito for the designing and constructing of a 1,200-foot taxiway and a new terminal tarmac.
 
Editor's Note: Top and third photos show NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock looking over the areas that will be home to a new business park and the new terminal. In the second photo, Gov. Jim Justice is shown during a grounbreaking ceremony last year as Airport Authority member and Harrison County Commissioner David Hinkle looks on. Bottom image is a conceptual drawing of the new terminal.


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