SLO Airport expansion gets green light



After two decades of taxiing on the runway, the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport’s plans for a new terminal is cleared for take off.

On Aug. 11, the SLO County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a package of benchmarks that will enable the long-awaited plans to move forward. Those include awarding a construction contract and approving a $35.4-million funding package, the majority of which comes from the Federal Aviation Administration. As part of that package, the county is giving the airport a $3.4-million loan.

The new terminal would allow the airport to expand its services, including the possibility to attract a third airline and more flights. Currently, there is interest from airlines in offering flights to Seattle, Denver, and possibly Sacramento.

The prospect of expanded services was supported by members of the local business community, especially those who depend on air travel for work. The expansion would also mean more people traveling through the area and, potentially, more dollars spent by those people.

“There’s an old saying that goes, ‘If you build it they will come,’” said Mike Manchak, president and chief executive officer of the SLO County Economic Vitality Corporation. “I’m more inclined to say, ‘If you don’t build it, they can’t come.’”

The airport first outlined the expansion in its master plan, which was approved by county supervisors in 1998.

Airport General Manager Kevin Bumen told New Times that the already lengthy design and funding process was stalled by the recession.

“It’s a very, very complicated, interlocking timeline that has a lot of milestones and contingencies,” Brume said. “In a best case scenario, it would take several years. It was pretty far down the path, and that was suspended, and it took about as long to resurrect it.”

The new terminal will be built between the fire station and the restaurant Spirit of San Luis. Construction is expected to start sometime this fall, and is estimated to take 18 months to complete. Bumen said that the existing building will remain, and the airport will seek out businesses that would like to operate there.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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