Saint John, Fredericton airports gain access to federal infrastructure funding

After 18 years of negotiations, six small airports in Canada, including Saint John and Fredericton, have gained access to a federal infrastructure program.

Saint John Airport has a to-do list for upgrades of up to $40-million

Four Atlantic airports are now eligible for funding under the program, including Saint John, Fredericton, Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Gander, N.L.. (CBC)

After almost two decades of having no access to federal funding, small airports in New Brunswick may finally get what they need to kickstart some infrastructure upgrades.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced it would make $2 billion available over 11 years through the National Trade Corridors Fund.

The investment is expected to strengthen trade infrastructure, including ports, waterways, roads and six Canadian airports.

Four Atlantic airports are now eligible for funding under the program, including Saint John, Fredericton, Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Gander, N.L..

"Saint John is one of those airports and is finally eligible to apply to the federal government for some funding and some much-needed projects," said Derrick Stanford, CEO of the Saint John Airport.

Stanford said when airports were privatized and transferred into local hands in 1999, the government promised to come up with a plan for the smaller locations with a passenger volume of 600,000 or fewer people per year.

Given the small passenger volume, it was supposed to help maintain the airports' large infrastructure.

"Eighteen years later, we've got a program," said Stanford, adding that the airports are still considered strategic locations under the National Airport System because they link the country from coast to coast.

Big plans

Stanford told CBC's Information Morning that the Saint John Airport has a to-do list worth upwards of $40-million.

Improvements include a runway rehabilitation, he said, which will see the 5,000 and 7,000 feet tarmacs repaved.

The 7,000 feet runway will also be extended to 8,000 feet to meet modern day standards, he said.

"It really comes down to safety. A lot of the more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft take a little bit longer to get up to speed and get going," Stanford said.

"Being able to offer something closer to 8,000 feet gives pilots added insurance in case they make a change during take-off or landing."

He said airport authorities would also like to install high-intensity LED lights on the side of the runways, as well as centre-line lighting.

"Saint John is one of the foggier airports in Canada, [so] that would really be a big aid to the pilots," he said.

Other items on the list include a new waste water treatment plant, a new potable water treatment plant, and two new, on-site firetrucks.

Shovel-ready

Stanford said the government has not yet announced how much money the airports will get.

But he said it shouldn't be much of a problem getting what they need to improve the infrastructure in Saint John.

"Saint John's been doing it on its own since 1999," he said.

Applications for funding are due Sept. 5, but Stanford said staff at the Saint John airport is working on getting everything done as quickly as possible.

We're quite confident that we're ready to go for next construction season.- Derrick Stanford, CEO of the Saint John Airport

While he's not sure when construction would start, he said the government is interested in shovel-ready projects, which Saint John is prepared for.

"A lot of the things we'd like to do we've been contemplating and studying and having analysis done on for quite some time," Stanford said.

"So, we're quite confident that we're ready to go for next construction season."