LOS ANGELES — The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport in Washington state received a $2 million donation that provides one quarter of the local matching funds needed to qualify for federal grants on a $119 million runway project.
The airport in Whitman County, two miles east of Pullman, Wash. and four miles west of Moscow, Idaho, has been operating under a Federal Aviation Administration exemption for several years.
Its runway is not considered long enough to accommodate the 76-seat airplanes that Alaska Airlines flies into the airport.
The project calls for the airport's runway to be realigned, widened from 100 feet to 150 feet and extended from 6,700 feet to 7,100 feet to meet current FAA guidelines. Construction will begin in early 2016, with the completion date in late 2019.
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, a Pullman-based designer and manufacturer of systems that prevent power grids from having blackouts, and its founder Ed Schweitzer and wife Beatriz, announced on Aug. 24 that the firm and the Schweitzers would each contribute $1 million toward the runway improvements.
The airport's market base includes Washington State University in Pullman and the University of Idaho in Moscow.
The FAA has agreed to provide $16 million in grants in fiscal 2015 for the project, plus an additional $80 million over the next five years, according to airport financial documents.
An 8.125% local match was required to receive the matching grant, which worked out to $2.5 million for each city.
Other project stakeholders include Whitman and Latah counties and other large businesses within the region.
"The Schweitzer and SEL donations put us over the top for the local match," Tony Bean, executive director of Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, said in a prepared statement. "These gifts will help us give the region a competitive advantage for maintaining the quality of life enjoyed on the Palouse as well as attracting and retaining companies, jobs, students, faculty, and families."
The runway realignment project will enable the airport to meet the industry's evolving safety standards, while providing the opportunity for more flights and potential destinations out of Pullman-Moscow, Bean said. It will also reduce the number of weather related flight cancellations.
The airport had enplanements of 83,868 in 2014, up from 79,605 in 2013, according to airport financial documents.
At present, Alaska Airlines schedules three daily flights between Pullman-Moscow and Seattle, according to the airline's timetable.
"The airport is an essential resource for our employees, job candidates, suppliers, and customers," Ed Schweitzer said in a statement. "As members of this community, SEL and our family are delighted that we can be a part of making air travel in and out of the area safer, more convenient, and more dependable."
Increased revenue resulting from the expansion will fund continued improvements of airport facilities and services in the future, Bean said.
"Dr. Schweitzer has generously shared his suggestions and insights for improving the efficiency of the project," said Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, the airport board chair. "Over a year ago, he sent letters to the Washington and Idaho Congressional delegations that assisted local efforts to lower the local match."
The FAA was initially going to require a match of 10%, not the reduced 8.125%.