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Airport gets $5 million grant

The Medford airport received a $5 million federal grant that will be part of long-range expansion plans. Photo courtesy of Jackson County

The Medford airport scored a $5 million federal grant Monday that will pave the way for more hangar space and a large runoff detention pond.

It was the single biggest grant received by more than a dozen airports in Oregon.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced $10.3 million for the airports covering runway repairs, improved guidance systems, perimeter fencing and winter weather preparation.

Medford plans to use its money to remove an old taxiway and a grassy area north of the terminal that will eventually provide more hangar space.

“We’re looking at behind-the-scenes projects that need to get done,” said airport Director Jerry Brienza.

Next year, lots of concrete will be poured in the cleared out taxiway area to prepare it for hangars. Brienza said the airport hopes to get a $5.5 million grant next year to cover the costs of the concrete work.

The other big project is building a 2-acre detention pond to the north of the terminal near Table Rock Road.

Water from roofs and other surfaces will flow into the pond and percolate into the ground.

Currently the airport has a number of smaller ponds that capture runoff. All the runoff will flow into the new, larger pond.

“We’re building it large enough for future expansion at the airport,” Brienza said.

Because the airport doesn’t want to attract birds, the pond will fully dry up within 48 hours.

The projects are planned years in advance with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Brienza said the airport is going through an extensive process to enlarge the existing terminal to accommodate more passengers.

The terminal will grow by about one-third, and the project will take a few years to design and build. It will be the first phase in long-term plans to increase the size of the terminal.

COVID-19 continues to hurt the air travel industry.

This March the number of passengers through the terminal was down 40% compared to March 2019.

Still, that was an improvement over other months during the pandemic.

“At one point we were down 92%,” Brienza said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.