Santa Barbara Municipal Airport will receive over $10 million for safety improvements that will bring it up to federal standards and to give pilots an extra sigh of relief.
To improve the airport’s outdated safety measures, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted $10.8 million to the airport, Congresswomen Lois Capps announced last Friday. Currently, the airport’s main runway does not meet the standards of the Federal Aviation Association, something Airport Director Karen Ramsdell said will be directly targeted.
“We are thrilled to receive this money,” Ramsdell said. “It will fund the Runway Safety Area project and will improve the safety at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.”
Federal standards require that runways be equipped with “over run” areas on either side of the track in case of airplane malfunctions, said Assistant Airport Director Hazel Johns. The extra yardage on SBA’s 6,052-foot runway would give problem-stricken airplanes more breathing room during takeoff and landing.
“We are providing a measure of safety that we didn’t have before,” she said.
The project, which has been years in the making, will close runways from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and in the process force carriers to change flight schedules. The project will begin in July and is scheduled to finish by November, and authorities anticipate that will force the reduction of incoming and outgoing flights by 3 percent.
Johns said that four flights have been impacted so far.
“In some cases, the airlines have scheduled shifts so they can get their planes in prior to 10 o’clock at night,” she said.
In addition to improving safety measures, much of the airport’s newfound funds are being devoted to restoring wetland plants that must be moved to accommodate new construction. The airport plans to plant four wetland plants for every one it has to remove, Johns said.
“Part of the project is wetland mitigation. Nine million of the dollars are going to replacing the wetlands plants that needed to be removed,” Johns said.
Capps has been pushing for more federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for a while, Emily Kryder, Capps’ press secretary, said. Kryder said by voting in favor of discretionary grants from the department, Capps helps enable local airports to apply for grant money.
“Congress goes through their appropriations process and gives discretionary funding to the Department of Transportation… from this discretionary funding, local municipal airports can apply for grants,” Kryder said.
Capps said she voted for the grants not only to improve safety at Santa Barbara’s airport, but also to help give the facility a better chance to expand in the future.
“The extension of the Santa Barbara runway is a positive development for our community. These federal resources will help our airport safely maintain its current high quality of service while providing an important opportunity for future growth,” she said.