Brookings pursues Oregon grant for Crescent City airport

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer June 17, 2014 10:07 pm

A grant for which the City of Brookings applied to help the Del Norte County Regional Airport is one step closer to approval, it was announced Monday.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) CO-V Final Review Committee voted last week to include Crescent City’s airport Runway Safety Area project among the 37 it is considering funding.

“At this point, the RSA project is virtually assured of being funded,” said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman.

Brookings applied for the grant because of the importance of the regional airport to the local economy. The city is a member of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority, a consortium of two cities, two counties and two Native American tribes in two states that manages the Del Norte County Regional Airport.

Some of those on the committee were “very skeptical” about approve the project, Milliman reported, but members eventually approved the proposal to continue to the next phase. This recommendation now moves on to the Oregon Transportation Commission for approval on July 17.

“We were pleased that the review panels at all levels in this grant process recognized the importance of the Del Norte airport to the region’s economy, and that the region includes Brookings and Curry County,” Milliman said. “They recognized that the Del Norte airport is our local airport and is important not only for its passenger service but for critical air ambulance service.”

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors has agreed to loan the airport authority up to $1.8 million to pay for interim funding for the project’s construction and environmental review costs. Airport authority officials will continue to apply for grant funding to cover the additional $400,000 match required by local agencies.

ConnectOregon, the program writing the $400,000 check, focuses on improving connections between Oregon highways and other modes of transportation, including marine, aviation, bicycle and pedestrian.

The $16 million project will involve improving runway shoulders to meet minimum Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards. FAA has mandated that the airport meet those standards by December, 2015, or face possible loss of its operating permit. FAA has already approved funding for 95 per cent of the cost, and local agencies are required to come up with the 5 percent match. These funds would be used for a portion of that match.

It’s not common, either, that the state of Oregon allocates funding for an out-of-state project, Milliman said.

 “It is very unusual,” he said. “But there is a recognition that the Del Norte airport is really the local commercial airport for the Oregon South Coast.”

Milliman, who serves as vice-chair of the South West Oregon Commission on Transportation, said $42 million in CO-V funding is available statewide, with $4.2 million being allocated for projects in ODOT Region 3, consisting of Curry, Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties.

 “It is a highly competitive process, with many more projects submitted than money available,” Milliman said, adding that this project was ranked 16th among 104 projects submitted. “And the city still has a shot at securing CO-V funding for a second project, which was ranked 42nd.”

That project, the Brookings Oregon Coast Bike Network, would make improvements to the existing bicycle and pedestrian path between Harris Beach State Park and the Brookings business district.

The city applied for $180,000 to fund 80 percent of the cost of rehabilitating this segment of the path to meet state standards. It would involve widening the path and adjusting the Highway 101 guardrail across from Parkview Drive.

This project would complement a larger project planned for construction this summer from Harris Beach State Park to Dawson Road.

Four city projects ahead of the bicycle projects range in cost from $560,000 to $2 million, and they cannot receive partial funding.

“This means that if, say, a higher-ranking project drops out, or if one of the higher-ranking projects has a cost under-run, or if more funding becomes available, our comparatively small $180,000 project might just slip in there,” Milliman said. “We probably won’t know for at least a year.”