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Rochester airport pushes for much needed repairs

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) – Rochester International Airport is the second busiest airport in the state. Open in its current location since 1960, it is in need of critical repair.

The Senate Capital Investment Committee was in the Med City today as it continues an infrastructure tour of the state, getting a first hand look of capital requests.

“We do need a good airport and of course a good airport means good runways,” said Sen. Dave Senjem.

After more than 40 years of use, one of Rochester’s two runways, Runway 02/20, has become too much to maintain.

“It’s just done. I think we’ve squeezed the last bit of useful life out of this piece of pavement,” said RST executive director John Reed.

Three years ago, the airport started a Fly Local campaign, urging local businesses to use the home town resource. So far, it is successfully increasing airport traffic.

“It’s spurred the growth,” Reed said. “We have to give big thanks to the business community.”

The airport serves not just Rochester, but people from all over the region.

“We like to think we’re the airport all of southeast Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa,” said Reed. “If you look in our parking lot, you’ll see license plates from all of those states.”

The airport director says that 13 percent of passengers are from abroad. Many of them traveling to the Med City for Mayo Clinic.

“[We] saw today the importance of the life safety issues that this airport handles whether it be the passengers who come in great need for those special services at Mayo Clinic or whether it be the samples that fly in on a daily basis,” said Sen. Carla Nelson from Rochester who has authored the bill in the state senate.

The runway safety project will cost $79 million with more than 60 million of that coming from federal dollars.

“We weigh these projects against literally 400 other projects in terms of value. We’ll decide within the framework of probably about a billion, maybe a billion and a half dollars, whether this 9 million will fit into it,” said Sen. Senjem, who is also the chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

“We know that bonding dollars are tight but there are not any bonding dollars that leverage as much federal money as you see right here in this project,” Nelson said.

The proposed project at the Rochester International Airport would take between 4 to 5 years to complete.

There will be a decision on the bonding bill next February when the senate session begins.

Alex Tejada

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