Hopes remain high funding will be found to expand the runway at Red Deer Airport.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood said local representatives were disappointed that funding through the Small Communities Fund wasn’t coming through.
“That doesn’t mean we’re giving up,” he said on Tuesday. “We’ve still got some hope for this project to go ahead.”
Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen is on board and has been lobbying federal officials on behalf of Central Alberta to provide the cash necessary to lengthen a runway so it can be used by bigger passenger jets. About 600 metres must be added to create the strip needed by 737s.
The cost of the project is estimated at about $10.5 million. The city and county have proposed funding up to $4.5 million with hope the province and federal government would pitch in $3 million each.
Wood said the need to upgrade the airport is not in question. A master plan for the airport made an airtight case for the need to upgrade the facility if it is to adequately serve the region in coming years.
“The airport is a big economic driver within our region,” he said. “And the airport needs to make that next step to make it even more viable for the operations it has.”
The economic benefits will be felt in the City of Red Deer, the county and municipalities throughout Central Alberta, he said.
Regional representatives will continue to lobby the provincial and federal governments for funding help despite the recent setback, he said.
“I am very optimistic that we will see this project go forward, maybe just not as soon as we had hoped.”
Airport CEO RJ Steenstra also remained optimistic.
“We are obviously disappointed that we are not going to have anything come through on this fund but certainly encouraged that work will continue by all parties to move forward with other funding options for this expansion.
“It continues to be critical for the airport going forward.”
The goal is to be “shovel ready” by the fall and the expansion completed by the spring of 2016, he said.
The engineering work including storm water management is expected to be completed by October. By then, Steenstra hopes there will be more definite answers about funding so they can proceed with the rest of the project.