Sky Looks Clear for Airport Expansion

COVENTRY – Plans for a $3.4 million expansion at the Newport State Airport continue to move forward. The project calls for a 1,000-foot expansion of the north-south runway. Monday evening, the Coventry Select Board held a final hearing for the public to examine how grant funds from the Vermont Community Development Program were used for an economic impact study of downtown Newport City, Coventry and neighboring communities. The study is being used to secure and leverage funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Vermont Transportation Authority (VTrans), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Funding will be used for road construction, broadband infrastructure, water and sewer lines, and other planning, development and execution.With the exception of the press, nobody attended the hearing.The airport needs 250 flights of Class C turbo-prop aircraft in and 250 out, in one year, before getting FAA approval for the expansion. "The amount of traffic will justify to the FAA the critical importance of Newport State Airport as (a) transportation hub serving the region," Trish Sears wrote in an email.The expansion could bring jobs to the area, said Sears, executive director for the Newport City Renaissance Corporation (NCRC). The airport will need a larger terminal and there is potential for businesses to co-locate at the airport.The airport would need water and sewage upgrades. The price to run sewer lines from Newport City to the airport is roughly $6.5 million, Sears said. However, that would not come from city taxpayer dollars. Kingdom Trails, Jay Peak Resort, the biotech centers and Columbia Forest Products will be some of the users of the expanded runway. Heritage and Cape Air are two of the airlines interested in offering service. There is also a possibility of cargo planes like UPS and Fed-Ex.The largest plane would have a capacity of about 79 passengers. The noise level would be the same as the private seven- to ten-passenger planes that land there now. No planned service is scheduled for now.Select board chairman Mike Marcotte asked if there is a way to move people from Burlington to Jay Peak.“That’s going to be in the mix of possibilities,” answered Sears. So far, the project has gained little opposition, but according to Marcotte, there are some people with concerns.“Right now, everything is just preliminary,” he said. “As soon as we have information, we’ll be holding some hearings so people, especially those who live in that area, will know what the plan is.”The project also needs Act 250 permits. No town permits are necessary, but the project does fall into the town plan.