Former Castle Air Force Base rehab projects get a boost from federal grant

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 15, 2012 

After years of trying, the Castle Airport recently qualified for federal funding to help with the continued transition of the former Air Force base to civilian use.

Under the federal Military Airport Program, Merced County officials anticipate receiving about $580,000 this year. The grant is scheduled for five years.

"This was about 10 years in the making," said Mark Hendrickson, Merced County Commerce, Aviation and Economic Development director. "We're very hopeful that with this influx of revenue we'll be able to continue to position ourselves in a way to well accommodate cargo and other commercial ventures."

The program will help fund a number of projects not covered under the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program, which the county also benefits from.

In recent years, with the AIP funding the airport has been able to do runway rejuvenation and taxiway reconstruction projects, Hendrickson said.

The Military Airport Program, administered by the FAA, is dedicated to funding the rehabilitation and civilian conversion of aging military facilities.

According to county officials, the Castle Airport will use the funds for several projects, including:

Design and installation of apron lighting

Removal of Air Force pavement marking and repainting

Rehabilitation of approach lighting.

Preliminary engineering for airfield lighting projects.

Electrical equipment rehabilitation.

Terminal parking lot rehabilitation as well as perimeter fencing and gates.

Fifteen airports participate in the program at any one time, including three general aviation airports, under federal rules.

In 2012, federal officials added or renewed MAP grants with six airports, according to an FAA announcement.

Along with Castle Airport, qualifying facilities include, Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Valpariso, Fla.; Sheppard AFB-Wichita Falls Municipal Airport in Wichita Falls, Texas; March Inland Port/March ARB in Riverside; Kaleaeloa-John Rodgers Field in Kapolei, Hawaii; and Griffiss International in Oneida County.

Since 1990, the FAA has provided about $638 million for projects related to airport restoration.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209)385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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