Airport upgrades coming to Dawson Creek

Provincial government doles out more than $128,000 for three projects to improve the front of the airport terminal.

Another round of provincial funding has landed at the Dawson Creek airport to the tune of $128,250. 

The money comes from the B.C. Air Access funding program and will be used for a range of upgrades to the front of the terminal building including lighting, windows, sidewalks and a roof over the entrance and exit.  The airport applied for the grants to carry out these three projects.

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Last year, the airport received $82,311 form the air access program. It was used to for security upgrades, CCTV and repairs for a leaky terminal roof.

The long-term plan for the airport has recently been the subject of debate before city council. A planned $20.7 million spend in the city's five-year financial plan to upgrade airport equipment and infrastructure had some councillors questioning whether the city needs an airport at all with other, bigger hubs like Grande Prairie and Fort St. John nearby.

Aside from close competition, the airport's biggest hurdle right now is the length of its runway according to general manager Ian Darling. 

Darling says he believes Dawson Creek missed out on adding a new air carrier when low budget flyer New Leaf announced it would be expanding its services into Fort St. John last month.

"Our runways are only 5,000 feet," Darling said. Most jets need more than that to safely land. "I feel like if we had (a larger runway) we may have been able to get New Leaf in here."

The cost of a runway expansion would run anywhere from $4 to $5 million, Darling said, adding that could realistically take three to four years to complete.

For now, Darling said his focus is improving the facility to be able to handle more traffic.

"Our passenger numbers have dropped because of the economic situation," he said, "but we're still not as low as we were 12 or 13 years ago."

The B.C.Air Access program handed out $6 million across the province this year. Over the next three years it will dole out $24-million.

"Improving vital transportation links like the Dawson Creek Airport is important in ensuring that communities like ours remain accessible and connected," South Peace MLA Mike Bernier said. "This funding will benefit businesses, visitors and all residents."

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