Sonoma County airport secures $10M in federal funds for new terminal project

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The Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport has received a $10 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, paving the way for construction to begin on the airport’s planned terminal expansion.

In addition, the grant requires a 10% match by the county, so the airport will receive another $1 million, said manager Jon Stout. The county also must pay about $2.4 million for facilities, such as concession space, that don’t qualify for federal funding, bringing the total project cost to about $25 million.

While the airport had applied for $20 million, Stout isn’t disappointed. In fact, he didn’t expect to receive the full $20 million, especially considering the grant was highly competitive. Only 5% of the applicants were awarded funds, he said.

“Doing phasing is something we had contemplated with the FAA already because we knew $20 million was a large ask for one project,” Stout said. “So, we are set up to do phasing; $10 million is a good number for that because we can do the shell.”

Work on the internal build-out will follow. Design work is underway and will take another six months, he said.

“Now that we have (these funds), we are looking at starting construction early first quarter next year because the grant has a six-month construction-start requirement,” he said. “Actual construction will take about 22 to 24 months.”

“We all know that our county and our entire region is a world-class destination and we want to work together to boost our local businesses,” said Rep. Mike Thompson. “We are also working to ensure local public safety has every resource possible, including increased access to air service to get needed resources in and out.”

One thing Stout emphasized is that the terminal expansion isn’t about creating airline demand. Rather, the terminal expansion is being done to accommodate passenger needs.

Stout recently told the Business Journal he has “440,000 reasons” for needing the grant, referring to how many passengers were served last year at the airport. This year’s forecast is 480,000.

“Just based on the recommendations for the 440,000 passengers, (the airport’s size) should be in the neighborhood of 60,000 square feet to 80,000 square feet,” he said. “With the tent, we are at about 19,000 square feet.”

As far as securing another $10 million, Stout said he’ll apply again next year.

“The FAA can’t guarantee the future funds next year, but they said they will do their best,” Stout noted. “If not, we’ll have to compete for discretionary dollars under the Airport Improvement Program.”

The airport currently provides service from four commercial air carriers — Alaska, United, American and Sun Country — and continues to add routes and more flights per day.

Story updated to include financial match from Sonoma County, comment from Rep. Mike Thompson, and further details about the airport’s current status.

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