WILLISTON, North Dakota — Officials expect to break ground in the spring on a new airport in Williston, after approval and initial funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA has awarded $27 million for the $254 million project, and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he is working to secure more federal funding to reduce the cost to the city and state, the Williston Herald reported. About $56 million is to come from the city and $58 million from the state, according to KXMC-TV.
Traffic at Williston's current airport is 10 times what it was built to handle, due to the region's oil boom. Regional jet service is now available from Williston to Minneapolis, Denver and Houston.
The airport's runways that were designed to serve 30-passenger turboprop planes are now being used by commercial jets holding up to 50 passengers. Runway restrictions prevent bigger planes from landing here, something that officials say is hampering growth in the oil patch hub.
"Keeping our state prepared to accommodate our new community members and visitors, particularly out west, means making sure our airports are safe, up-to-date and ready to grow," U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement.
The FAA's conclusion that relocating the airport will not affect the environment "was the final hurdle," Airport Director Steven Kjergaard said.
"It's not just planning anymore. We can start doing things that people can see," he told the Williston Herald.
The city plans to sell the existing 80-acre Sloulin Field International Airport and buy 1,400 acres northwest of the city for the planned Williston Basin International Airport. The new facility will have a longer runway to accommodate full-size commercial jets, five gates with the capacity to expand to 12, and seating for 600 people — up from the current 140, according to KXMC-TV.
Construction likely will begin next June and wrap up in the fall of 2018, Kjergaard said.