Dayton Veto of Transportation Bill Threatens Duluth Airport

Roads and bridges understandably attract most of the attention when it comes to transportation funding at the legislature. But the Duluth News Tribune reminds us that Minnesota airports also depend on the transportation bill for critical matching support for federal grants for runway maintenance and operational upgrades.Duluth Airport

Duluth Airport Authority officials pulled back all the way on the throttle in a letter informing Gov. Dayton of the potential consequences of his veto of the transportation bill passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate.

…The Duluth Airport Authority warns that Sky Harbor Airport could close, the Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing could be relocated and hundreds of jobs could be lost.

That’s the dire plea sent in a letter from airport authority board president Patrick Mullen to Gov. Mark Dayton, who on Monday night vetoed a transportation finance bill that contained $6.6 million for runway reconstruction at Duluth International Airport and runway realignment at Sky Harbor.

At stake is $45 million in federal money that requires the state to throw in a 10 percent match; projects at the airports total more than $60 million.

“If the state match is not awarded in 2017, it is likely the federal (discretionary) funding will be withdrawn from the project,” Mullen wrote.

The bottom line: Dayton’s insistence on more funding for Twin Cities transit could end up not only costing rural Minnesota highways but airports, as well.

“Certainly we’re advocating for passage of the transportation bill with the hopes that politics won’t get in the way,” he [Werner] said. “The gridlock at the Capitol is very concerning, certainly in light of the fact that both sides agree we need the bill.”

The work at DLH, necessary to replace the 60-year-old main runway, has already hit snags as the airport works around the needs of AAR Corp. and attempts the reconstruction in phases.

Sky Harbor’s runway needs a realignment to come into compliance with state Department of Transportation standards. The airport authority is counting on $930,000 in state money to make that happen.