The residents of Fond du Lac will have to wait at least another year for possible upgrades to their airstrip.
The government confirms it is in the early stages of conducting an engineering report on the runway and securing federal dollars to make the project possible.
Minister of Highways, David Marit, says the government wants to expand and widen the runway, as its use is becoming greater.
“I think we’re looking at a significant widening and lengthening of that,” said Marit. “We still want to look at expanding that airport. We know there’s bigger aircraft up there, taking more freight.”
Marit says he spoke to federal officials last week and urged Ottawa to allow provinces more freedom on funding where air transport is the main method.
Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger says the Regina Bypass is getting one-third of the highways budget, while the North gets nothing. He points to the plane crash from December, which left one person dead and injured 24 others, as a good reason to make the upgrades more of a priority. Belanger says northern airports need strategic investments, given they are the main transportation artery in many communities.
“It’s creating a lot of stress. Not just on the airport infrastructure itself, but on people as well. The airport itself is the main hub for transportation in the basin,” said Belanger. “As we put more pressure on air transportation in the North, we have to make sure we have safe runways, longer and wider runways.”
Marit says the government has not prepared a cost estimate of the upgrades, adding a similar project was completed in Moose Jaw for approximately $3 million. Marit concedes that the Fond du Lac improvements could be much higher, given increased transportation costs.
As the government awaits a final engineers report on the runway, it still needs approval from Transport Canada on other technical requirements before proceeding.
(PHOTO: Fond-du-Lac. Photo courtesy of earmp.com)