AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The Federal Aviation (FAA) awarded an $8.3 million grant to the Augusta Regional Airport as part of a nationwide push to improve safety and infrastructure.
NewsChannel 6 spoke to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao about how the funding will be used.
“It’s to acquire aircraft, rescue and firefighting safety equipment, construct a taxiway, improve a terminal building and rehabilitate an apron,” said Chao. “It will improve the quality of life and travel experience for passengers, and it will also enhance safety.”
The funding is being awarded as airports and airlines reel from a sharp drop in air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chao said this is the perfect time to begin these projects because passenger traffic is low.
“We want the airports, very much, to know we support them,” said Chao. “We want to make sure they’re keeping payroll and keeping people employed. We want to make sure they’re thinking about the future by looking at their maintenance schedule, doing what they can now when the traffic is low, and then thinking about the future.”
Augusta Regional Airport is already putting the money to use.
“You’ll see new flooring. You’ll see the baggage handling system. You’ll see some rental car and parking upgrades in the next year or so,” said Herbert Judon, the executive director of Augusta Regional Airport.
Judon said the upgrades will make the airport prepared for a post-pandemic world when air travel returns to normal levels.
“Prior to COVID-19, we announced new service and had been been pretty deep in negotiations with a third airline, and that all came to a screeching halt,” said Judon. “As things improve, we do plan to aggressively pursue an additional airline.”
The FAA awarded an additional $10.6 million for the state of Georgia, which will be distributed to the Athens-Ben Epps, DeKalb–Peachtree and Thomaston-Upson County airports.