Airport officials say a newly-announced $3.4 million federal grant will increase efficiency and safety at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Benton County.
U.S. legislators from Arkansas announced Tuesday that they had helped secure the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Officials said the grant will not affect the price travelers will pay, but it will go toward upgrades and reimbursements for projects at XNA.
Some of the grant will reimburse XNA’s expansion of the terminal building. The money will also be used to widen a taxi lane near an airport concourse to make it easier for larger planes to maneuver, said Kelly Johnson, airport director.
"We haven't updated the master plan for the entire airport since 2002. We needed the money to do that so that takes care of this,” Johnson said. “The sweeper truck that we need because we have all of this additional pavement and certainly those two additional lanes of pavement at the north end of the concourse."
Johnson praised U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman, along with Rep. Steve Womack, with securing the funding for the XNA projects.
"Because of sequestration and budget issues in Washington, they have been very slow in getting these grants pushed out the door,” Johnson said.
Travelers said they have noticed some of the projects already underway, and are looking forward to more upgrades.
“I think it’s a great use of resources for Northwest Arkansas,” said Eileen Robertson. “I think it’s something that’s really needed, and it’s great to have the additions here and have the bigger flights coming in and out of XNA.”
“I think it’s going to help us compete with Tulsa because a lot of the flights that I do are right out of Tulsa, so I know a lot of people do that,” said air traveler Jason Herron. “The more flights we can get in here, the better, especially the larger aircraft.”
Johnson said the airport will receive parts of the grant as it completes the projects.