Hurricane-Damaged Airports Get Cash Infusion

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Four airports in Texas and Louisiana damaged by the recent hurricanes will get at least $16 million in federal help to make repairs, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said last Friday, a day after he visited the region. Mineta said he would also try to change some of the rules for the use of Airport Improvement Funds so money can be used for repairs to terminals and hangars. Mineta saw firsthand the hurricane damage at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport in Beaumont and Louisiana's Lake Charles Regional Airport. "Regional airports and the general aviation flights they support are absolutely vital to the economy of this area," Mineta said. "We are going to see that help is available to rebuild so these airports will play a key role in the region's recovery from Hurricane Rita." Lake Charles Regional Airport will receive almost $8 million to fund repairs to the terminal building and airport fire station, as well as to repair and replace runway signs. Southeast Texas Regional Airport will receive almost $6 million in federal support to repair the terminal and fire buildings, replace navigational equipment and lighting, repair damaged fire trucks and replace runway signs. Lakefront Airport in New Orleans will receive over $2 million to repair a retaining wall, runways and taxiways that were damaged when the airport was flooded after Hurricane Katrina. And Chennault International Airport, also in Lake Charles, will receive over $36,000 to repair fencing that protects the airport's lighting equipment. Mineta called the grants "down payments" and pledged his department would be a "full partner" with hurricane-stricken communities working to rebuild their transportation systems. "We will do our part and not waste time getting these airports the support they need to rebuild," he said.