Senator Lott, Secretary Mineta, Administrator Blakey Announce $44 Million to Repair Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport
Story and Photos by Keith Burton - GCN Filed 6/2/06
One of the largest federal grants ever issued to an airport was announced in a formal ceremony at the Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport. In an event attended by top federal and local officials, Senator Trent Lott and Representative Gene Taylor were joined by Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, and Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey in announcing a $44 million federal grant to repair the Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport (GBIA), heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
"This grant won't just repair, rebuild and revitalize this airport, it will also bring new passengers, new business, and new energy to this storied region," said Mineta. "This grant will lay the foundation for the Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport of tomorrow, and what an airport it will be."
Mineta praised Lott, Taylor and the airport's administrative staff and board for working hard get the grant. "These were all powerful voices to make this project come along," Mineta said. (Mineta, photo left)
“I’m very pleased that Secretary Mineta and Administrator Blakey have come to Mississippi to see this facility and the progress we’re making toward its enhancement,” Senator Lott said. “The Gulfport/Biloxi airport already was experiencing remarkable growth prior to Katrina. Now in Katrina’s aftermath, the airport is a key component in the Coast’s recovery.”
The money will be combine with two other grants already received by the airport to total just over $51 million dollars.
The funding was made possible through legislation introduced by Senator Lott last September and shepherded through the Congress by him a month later. His bill, S. 1786, authorizes the Transportation Secretary to make emergency airport improvement grants for repairs associated with hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Senator Lott and airport administrator Bruce Frallic took Mineta and Blakey on a tour of the airport’s general aviation, tower, rental car, air cargo and terminal facilities before announcing the grant.
The funding will build new air cargo and general aviation facilities, and provide for the main terminal’s ongoing renovation, and build a new control tower that will be relocated on the west side of the airport and nearly twice as high.
This grant is a follow-on to a previously announced $4.65 million award from DOT for planning and engineering work.
Senator Lott, working with Administrator Blakey, led efforts to secure emergency funding for hurricane damaged airports after discovering that current law lacked the flexibility to use existing FAA funds for recovery efforts.
“Of all the federal agencies, DOT and FAA were two of the most responsive in Katrina’s wake,” Senator Lott said. “Mississippians are grateful for the steadfast support we’ve received from Secretary Mineta and Administrator Blakey, and as a result the Gulfport/Biloxi airport is destined to be rebuilt better than ever, as a world-class facility that will enhance our economic development and recovery.”
While the number of passengers arriving at the airport suffered in the months immediately after the hurricane, airport officials say the number of passengers arriving now are higher than prior to Hurricane Katrina and all air carriers are back and doing business as the airport.
(Photo above right shows Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey, left, then Sen. Trent Lott, airport Director Bruce Frallic, and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.)
Also on hand at the announcement was Congressman Gene Taylor, Southern District Highway Commissioner Wayne Brown, Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, and Harrison County Board of Supervisors President Connie Rockco, and Supervisor Marlin Ladner.
The work on the airport is already underway. Airport officials say most of the work, including a new terminal, parking garage, control tower and general aviation center, should be completed within 18 months.