Paine Field Airport Upgrade

An $11 million upgrade for the main runway at Paine Field Airport is back on schedule now that a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration has ended.


Paine Field officials said they were planning to delay the runway improvement project for a year due to lack of funding from the FAA.


“The Senate just found some kind of agreement, they made a deal, so it looks like the FAA is going back to work,” said Airport Director Dave Waggoner Friday.


President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday to end the partial shutdown of the FAA, allowing thousands of employees to go back to work after a two-week furlough.


The shutdown cost the government about $400 million in uncollected airline ticket taxes, left 4,000 FAA employees without work and halted hundreds of airport construction projects.


“They’re not at work, so they can’t do their jobs,” said an FAA spokesperson Friday. “Airport projects have stopped all week.”


Waggoner said plans are for the FAA to fund 95 percent of the project through an Airport Improvement Grant program. The program is funded by the Airway Trust Fund, which is fed with airline ticket taxes.


Another $550,000 of the project is going to be from Paine Field, he said.


With a partial shutdown of the FAA, the administration was not authorized to collect or grant funds, according to the spokesperson. Now that the FAA is back to work, the funds are once again available.


“Our plan is that we would go out to bid, get a firm number, go to the FAA, and if we have approval from Congress, they will give us an offer of a grant,” Waggoner said.  


The project includes adding new edge drains to the sides of the runway, new runway lights and new runway signs. Construction is scheduled to start next summer.


Waggoner said delaying the project for a year wouldn’t have been too much of a problem for the airport.


“The main runway is kind of like a house,” he said. “You have to continue upkeep and repair and upgrades, but a year delay is not going to create any safety problems.”


Waggoner said the end to the partial shutdown of the FAA is wonderful news – not just because the airport will get its upgrade sooner than later – but because 4,000 FAA employees are working again.


“If you think about the personal impact of throwing 4,000 FAA workers on furlough, that means they don’t get paid,” he said.


“They all have mortgages and rent payments and kids in college and insurance payments, and they just lost their salary.”


Congress reached an agreement Thursday to extend the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September. By then, the FAA will need another reauthorization.


Furloughed FAA employees were back to work Monday, the FAA spokesperson said.


The FAA has been operating on temporary extensions since 2007, when the last FAA reauthorization expired. Since then, 20 extensions have been passed while Congress continues work on a larger bill.


The shutdown was ordered to start July 22, when much of Washington, D.C. was transfixed by the government’s debt crisis.


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