Sugar Land airport gets $12 million FAA grant to improve taxiway

Posted on October 03, 2016 in

Sugar Land will receive more than $12.2 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to improve its taxiway, a major part of airfield upgrades city and state officials view as the catalyst for economic development.

The Texas Transportation Commission – which doles out federal transportation money awarded in Texas – on Thursday approved the money. Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff singled out the Sugar Land project as the “poster child” for regional airport investment in the state.

“I hope we get to do more in the future,” Vandergriff said.

The money is 90 percent of the $13.6 million cost to upgrade the taxiway at the airport and develop a new master plan for the airport, which the city purchased in 1991.

The multi-million federal award is a rarity for a general use airport in Texas, officials said, because the grants typically fund smaller projects of $1 million or less.

Officials will use the money to install new lighting and markings along the taxiway and improve drainage at the airport. Construction will be done at night to minimize effects on airport operations.

Airport and city officials will use a small portion of the money, about $333,000, to update the airport’s master plan. Sugar Land last updated its airport master plan in 1995, and must keep planning current to receive federal dollars. The new master plan will lay out short-and-long-range plans for airport improvements.

The work builds upon a $2.8 million project last year to relocate a hangar at the airport to make way for a wider taxiway.

Sugar Land officials have focused on airport improvements as a way to attract company executives. Former Mayor James Thompson said both Fluor, an engineering company, and oilfield services giant Schlumberger have large presences in the city because of the ease of flying in and out.

Based on FAA data, use of the airport increased to almost 75,000 takeoffs and landings in 2014, but dropped in 2015 to less than 70,000 aircraft movements.

Despite the drop, city officials think demand at the airport will increase. For the upcoming Super Bowl, Thompson said officials expect about 350 private planes to descend on the airport for the week.