Lack of grant funds grounds airport terminal project
- Pamplin Media
- Central Oregonian - News
In good news for Prineville, a state committee has recommended funding for a freight depot, but plans for a new airport terminal will have to wait.
>However, railroad freight terminal for Prineville receives $2 million
According to Oregon Department of Transportation Freight Mobility Section Manager and ConnectOregon Manager Julie Rodwell, the state Rail Advisory Committee voted to allocate $2 million and called for funding phase one with $2 million of ConnectOregon dollars and $1 million from the City of Prineville.
The project is anticipated to help increase rail freight traffic in Prineville. The total project cost is $9.30 million, and according to the city application, there is a match of $1.86 million.
ConnectOregon is a lottery-bond-based initiative approved by the Oregon Legislative Assembly to invest in air, rail, marine and transit infrastructure to ensure that the state's transportation system is strong, diverse and efficient. The Consensus Committee is made up of representatives from each of nine review committees, the governor's office and industry groups.
According to the application, "the City of Prineville/Freight Depot has a rare opportunity to invest in the growth of enterprises, encourage business expansion and create a critical link for regional transportation system to meet the growing needs of central and eastern Oregon."
The city has purchased 48.75 acres of heavy industrial land to update and expand the freight depot and reload facility.
Updating and expanding the facilities will provide the ability to handle rail-to-rail, truck-to-rail, truck-to-truck and rail-to-tanker transportation by using boxcars, center-beam and bulkhead rail cars. Currently, the railroad/freight area can only accommodate road/freight area can only accommodate limited rail-to-rail and truck-to-rail and tanker car transportation requests.
Frank Porfily, who is secretary of the Prineville-Crook County Airport Commission, said that economically, funding freight depot "dollar for dollar ... makes more sense."
"But it's (new airport terminal) definitely a priority for the airport to get that done," Porfily said, expressing his disappointment that the state committees did not recommend funding for a new terminal.
A proposed terminal at the Prineville-Crook County Airport is on hold, following the decision by the State Aviation Board that this is a low priority.
According to Rodwell, "the Freight Advisory Committee did not recommend it for funding and the Region 4 `SuperACT' committee likewise recommended it as (the) ninth of nine recommendations in their area...."
ODOT's Region 4 encompasses Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Wheeler, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, Klamath and Lake counties.
She said the state ConnectOregon Consensus Committee recommended not paying for a new terminal to the Oregon Transportation Commission. The commission meets again on July 19.
Airport Manager and Fixed Base Operator Eldon Nimmo expressed his frustration at the state committees' decision.
"It means we're not going to get a new terminal building this year," Nimmo said. "That's what it boils down to."
Personnel from the Oregon Department of Aviation or ConnectOregon were supposed to visit the airport, according to him.
"One or the other was supposed to come out and inspect the facility," Nimmo said. "As we understand it, that was part of their decision-making process. And nobody ever came."
The state decision not to go forward with funding means the airport will have to try something else in the mean- time.
"We're going to have to do some minor repairs on it to keep it usable through the wintertime," the airport manager said. The entire structure dates from the 1940s and is getting old and dilapidated. "Either that, or destroy it. If this money becomes available, we'll apply for it next year."
Porfily said the roof is coming off.
"And the electrical has got problems," Porfily said.
"In the first go around, we were third and we thought we were going to get it," Porfily said of state funding for the terminal.
The total cost for the terminal is $726,700. As provided for in the airport master plan, the proposed project calls for construction of a new, 6,400-square-foot airport terminal to replace the existing 1,600-square-foot facility. According to the plan submitted to ConnectOregon, the current building is more than 40 years old and "is not adequate to meet existing or projected use levels and needs."
The current building also has problems complying with the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and does not meet existing or projected use.
"The new facility is needed to support the continuing population and economic growth of the community and the central Oregon region, that is the fastest growing community and region in the state," according to the proposal application. "The new facility is also critically needed to support economic growth and diversification of the community that has been identified as a critical need."