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City Commission to discuss airport’s expansion

By The Mercury

City commissioners will get their most detailed look to date Tuesday at proposals to upgrade and expand the Manhattan Regional Airport.

Staff members will present commissioners with $48 million worth of proposals that are envisioned to be completed by 2017. It is possible that up to 75 percent of those costs may be covered by federal funds, although that is not guaranteed. The material to be presented to commissioners Tuesday puts the potential FAA money at $14.42 million, leaving about $6.9 million to be covered locally. Among options for raising that cash are passenger charges, parking charges, and private third party financing.

Among projects envisioned as part of the overall work are land acquisition, runway rehabitation and reconstruction, parking lot expansion, terminal expansion and relocation of the fixed-base operations.

The airport is an expansion topic because of substantial growth in its use over the past few years, and because city officials see that use only continuing to increase.

The existing terminal complex was opened in 1996, and designed to serve 19-passenger Beech commercial aircraft. But increases in the size of both plans and emplanements have changed the dynamics. Whereas in 1996 the airport saw only a few thousand emplanements annually — most to Kansas City — it handled nearly 60,000 emplanements in 2011, and projects that number to increase beyond 100,000 by 2030. The most common destination today is Dallas, followed by Chicago, with discussions continuing about extension of service to several other locations, among them Las Vegas, Orlando and Denver.

One of the aspects commissioners are sure to look at is the potential for using land near the airport for commercial activities. The Tuesday report will raise that concept, suggesting that businesses such as car washes, convenience stores, kennel facilities, restaurants and hotels would be compatible.

The proposal includes consideration of increasing the available parking space from the present 300 stalls to more than 600 by 2015 and about 900 by 2030.

It would more than triple the size of the existing terminal building by 2030.

The work session will be at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

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