University Park Airport is getting ready to begin a more than $6 million expansion, with the help of a $2.2 million state grant.
This expansion means the airport will be able to handle greater capacity in the future.
The grant was awarded through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's aviation portion of the Act 89 Multimodal Fund. University Park was one of 14 airports that will receive funding. The balance of the project is being financed by the Centre County Airport Authority.
"Airports are imperative to our transportation infrastructure and are an economic engine for local communities striving to bring more business and tourism dollars into our commonwealth," state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, said in a press release. "These funds will ensure continued growth and development of the commonwealth's airport system."
University Park is planning to construct a new access road that's designed to increase the size of its loop road, James Meyer, Centre County Airport Authority executive director, said. A new airport entrance will be built opposite Alexander Drive, next to FedEx. The field between FedEx and the current parking lot is planned to be additional parking, with a new stormwater facility across Fox Hill Road. Additionally, a bus station will be incorporated, and new handicapped-accessible parking will be relocated in front of the terminal.
At certain times of the year, Meyer said, the airport's parking is almost at capacity. This project will provide more parking capacity for additional air service in the future.
University Park Airport has three airlines flying regional jets to four hubs — Washington, D.C. (United), Chicago (United), Philadelphia (American Airlines) and Detroit (Delta). In April, United replaced its 50-seat jet to Chicago with a 70-seat jet.
According to the press release from Hanna's office, University Park Airport is the sixth-busiest airport in the state.
The earliest a shovel could be in the ground is early fall, Meyer said. From there, the work could take about two years.
He said most of the access road will be built before travelers are affected by construction.
There will be a time — during the transition from the old entrance to the new one — where it will be "difficult" for travelers, said Meyer, who compared it to the inconvenience of road construction.