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Grand Forks airport officials ink purchase agreements with nearby landowners

The land is needed to complete an expansion project of the airport’s crosswind runway, which, when completed, will allow for use by commercial jets. At present, the crosswind runway can only be used by UND aviation students and general aviation flights.

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The Byron L. Dorgan Terminal, shown here in 2015 at the Grand Forks International Airport, saw an increase in passengers in October 2020, but the numbers were down compared to October 2019. John Hageman / Grand Forks Herald
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The Grand Forks Airport Authority has completed purchase agreements for private land west of Grand Forks International Airport.

The land is needed to complete an expansion project of the airport’s crosswind runway, which, when completed, will allow for use by commercial jets. At present, the crosswind runway can only be used by UND aviation students and general aviation flights. Commercial flights land and takeoff from the airport’s main runway, but should that runway need to be closed for repair, the region would temporarily lose those flights.

Ryan Riesinger, executive director of Grand Forks International Airport, informed board members of the purchase agreements at the board's regular meeting, on June 24. Rick Meland, chairman of the Airport Authority’s Board of Commissioners, thanked those involved with the project and said it was “amazing” the work could be done so quickly.

“I do appreciate all those that worked on getting that land done, it's amazing that that could be put together and done that fast,” said Meland.

The purchase agreements are for three parcels of land to the west of the airport, and are expected to be finalized by Aug. 15. In April, the airport received a 32-acre parcel of land from the city, for the expansion project.

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In other airport board news, commissioners:

  • Authorized $827,000 to be spent on design work for the runway expansion project. The cost associated with the design work is eligible to be covered by federal funding, and the design is expected to be completed by February.
    Once construction has gotten underway, Riesinger said airlines will need to temporarily suspend service, when work is being done at the point where the airport’s two main runways intersect. Airlines need to be notified at least a year in advance so flight schedules can be re-worked. Riesinger said he is hoping to minimize the time GFK goes without commercial service to “potentially just a couple of weekends.” Construction on the runway could begin at some point in 2022.

  • Heard an update about increasing passenger numbers. More than 1,100 people took flights at GFK from April to May. Passenger numbers are higher than forecasted, likely due to Delta Airlines removing the 75% capacity limit on its airplanes on May 1. Prior to that, Riesinger said load levels never exceeded 55%. Through May, the airport turned a profit of about $35,000, when officials forecasted a six-figure deficit. Operating expenses there are being covered by a federal grant.

  • Received nearly $2 million through the federal Airport Rescue Grant program. The money must be used for operating expenses, and needs to be expended by the end of September, 2024. The airport also received a second grant for about $100,000 for concessionaire relief.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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