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Our view: Be patient, Grand Forks. The work being done at the airport is important and necessary

The approximately $10.5 million repair is part of an overarching, yearslong infrastructure upgrade at the airport, among the largest in its history. It’s expected to make the airport more efficient

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The region’s air travelers soon will notice a disruption at Grand Forks International Airport. Over the course of about 12 days, Aug. 22-Sept. 2, the local airport will be without commercial flight service while the intersection of the facility’s two runways is reconstructed.

The approximately $10.5 million repair is part of an overarching, yearslong infrastructure upgrade at the airport, among the largest in its history. It’s expected to make the airport more efficient and increase its capacity.

Disruptive? Yes.

Inconvenient? Yes.

Worth it? Absolutely. And here’s why, according to Ryan Riesinger, executive director of the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority:

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“It’s an exciting time to be advancing our program for the good of the airport after years of discussion, reviews, justifications and approvals,” he said. “It’s exciting for the airport to complete that and advance a program that will make the airport more viable over the long term for the community, the region and its users.”

Ahh, yes. The region and its users.

Grand Forks’ airport is of utmost importance not only to the community, but for so many who live within a few hours of Grand Forks. Through the first six months of 2022, 46,564 people have boarded commercial flights at GFK, making it the fourth busiest commercial airport in the state behind Fargo, Bismarck and Minot. Grand Forks’ boardings so far this year are up 50% over last year at this time, which outpaces the increases at all of the three busier airports. The change no doubt is related to developments at the Canadian border, where pandemic-related restrictions have been somewhat eased – essentially reopening the flow of Canadian guests into the region.

And several times in the past year, GFK has been declared among the nation’s busiest airports, thanks to the constant flow of air traffic that comes from UND conducting flight training at the facility.

Overall, GFK was ranked the 12th busiest airport in the nation last year, with more than 349,400 flights and operations occurring there. In 2020, GFK was the 20th busiest airport in the nation, up from 33 the year before. Eleven times in 2021, Grand Forks International was the busiest airport in the U.S.

Without this upcoming temporary disruption, it’s possible the airport would have to undergo a series of flight disruptions in the coming years as work continues on the infrastructure project, which is to include the lengthening of the secondary runway.

First, the intersection must be rebuilt. Eventually – after the intersection work and the lengthening effort – it will mean renovations can begin on the main runway.

But without all of the work that’s being done to improve the secondary strip, any work on the main runway would be very disruptive to local and regional travelers and UND flight training.

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So be patient, Grand Forks. The work being done at GFK – which is an important economic driver for the community – is for the better. It’s for the sake of efficiency and, especially, the future.

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