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Port of Benton to respond to Richland Airport hangar demand

The Port of Benton may run out of space for new hangars at the Richland Airport by the end of this year.

That’s why the port’s proposed $3.4 million capital budget for next year includes identifying more room for the hangars that have been in such high demand.

The two remaining sites for hangars are expected to be leased by the end of this year, said Stuart Dezember, the port’s finance director and auditor. A number of new hangars also have been built this year.

While the port expected to see demand for hangars with the closure of Kennewick’s Vista Field Airport for redevelopment, Dezember said they’ve seen more demand from people buying airplanes and relocating to Richland.

A $222,000 project next year would allow the port to identify where new taxi lanes can be built, which is needed to determine future hangar locations, he said.

That project, along with two projects at the Prosser Airport, will be covered by Federal Aviation Administration grants. The port must provide 10 percent of the money.

The Prosser Airport’s runway and taxi lane will be maintained, with crack and slurry sealing, to keep the pavement safe for use in a $575,000 project, Dezember said. That kind of repair is periodically needed.

The airport’s master plan also will be updated in a $200,000 project to determine what capital projects will be needed in the next five to seven years, he said. The FAA approves the final plan and projects must be part of the plan to qualify for grant funding.

The port also will focus on improvements to its 16 miles of rail between Horn Rapids Road and Columbia Center Boulevard next year.

Construction will finally occur on the Columbia Park Trail railroad bridge to replace wood portions with steel. The port received a $2.2 million state grant for the project, and has been working on coordinating the construction with the rail users. Dezember said the port is getting ready to put the project out to bid.

The $1.5 million construction project is expected to be finished this year, which is before the grant expires, he said. As part of the project a small 50-year-old wooden bridge over an irrigation canal also is being replaced to improve safety.

About $100,000 of other repair work will be done on the port’s rail lines in preparation for increased rail traffic expected when a $69.1 million, 455,000-square-foot warehouse opens at the Horn Rapids Industrial Park. What is said to be North America’s largest public refrigerated warehouse will be owned by investors, but managed and operated by Preferred Freezer Services and Chill Build.

Some of the railroad ties and ballasts under the railroad ties need to be upgraded to withstand more use and weight, Dezember said. The port will focus on portions in most need of repair.

The port also will spend about $200,000 next year repairing port-owned roads and parking lots in the Technology and Business Campus, Richland Manufacturing Mall and Richland Airport, Dezember said. That will include both crack and slurry seal work.

The port will use property tax dollars to cover capital projects next year, Dezember said. Lease revenue covers the port’s operating expenses.

The port commission has not yet approved the port’s final 2015 budget.

Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512;; Twitter: @KristiAPihl

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