Cantwell, Spokane Airport officials request federal funding for expansion project

SPOKANE, Wash. – Washington Senator Maria Cantwell is asking for a federal grant to help improve and expand the Spokane International Airport. 

Cantwell was in Spokane Wednesday to discuss the Airport Terminal Program grant, which is a competitive grant program funded through the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law. 

She hopes the grant will help with the airport’s multiphase Terminal Renovation and Expansion project (TREX), which is scheduled to begin in August. 

“Spokane, as a region, can help the entire united states system if it had [the] capacity to go other directions without all that flowing to SeaTac,” Cantwell said.

Spokane Airport System Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Krauter says the airport is seeing more than 4 million passengers pass through each year, with a record of 4.1 million in 2019. The numbers went down in the last few years because of the pandemic. However, Krauter says numbers are hitting 2018 levels again.

The expansion project is anticipated to accommodate around 20-25 percent more passengers. 

The project will add three additional gates, expand the existing ticketing area, upgrade mechanical and HVAC systems and consolidate the baggage system. 

It will also allow for a more flexible gate system where the airport can rotate gates and different airlines.

“That will give Spokane a little more competition and attract more people,” Cantwell said.

These new gates could mean fewer stops or more non-stop flights to various destinations across the country. Cantwell added that people flying from Spokane might not have to go through Seattle anymore. 

It could also help bring back international flights.

“We have been working on reestablishing air connectivity in those markets,” Krauter said. “Anytime we can add gate capacity, when we can get the other elements done, we know the passenger demand is there. It’s fairly complicated to serve cross border, but there are a number of steps that are being taken right now to make that a reality.”

Airport officials have asked for $65 million in a phased approach for the estimated $151 million project. If they do not get the grant money, Krauter said they will still use money through the bipartisan infrastructure law, other federal programs and bonds to make the improvements. While he said the grant won’t make or break the project, he said it does help them get it all started.

“Every federal grant dollar that we can bring in is another dollar we don’t have to finance,” Krauter said. “What’s really great is the accumulation of the federal grant dollars through various programs. We can actually start the project and we don’t have to sell bonds first.”

The project is expected to start in August and finish in 2025. Cantwell said they’ll find out in the next few days if the Spokane Airport will receive that grant.

“This opportunity to begin building this capacity now is very important as our economy continues to recover from the pandemic,” Krauter said.

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