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Congressman Darren Soto

Representing the 9th District of Florida

Winter Haven Regional Airport gets $2.5M federal grant

July 13, 2018
In The News

WINTER HAVEN – Let there be light — and runway milling and paving.

According to a release from the office of U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, the Winter Haven Regional Airport will receive nearly $2.5 million in discretionary grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding will go toward runway rehabilitation and runway lighting.

“It’s a great project,” Airport Manager Alex Vacha said. “It’s been several years since anything had been done.”

The planned date for construction to start is Oct. 10 with completion scheduled before June. The staff recommendation is to award the services to Kissimmee-based Preferred Materials. That will require City Commission approval — likely to come in September.

“We were fortunately able to incorporate lighting into the project,” Vacha said. “We have lighting on the primary runway, but our pilots have told us that they would like lighting on the secondary runway as well.”

Vacha said the secondary runway, which is scheduled to be paved as part of the project, is used mostly by smaller planes. It’s also a better option for managing crosswinds.

“It increases safety if a pilot looks to land at night,” Vacha said. “The capacity would increase as well. Having both runways available during the day and night hours is certainly a good thing.”

The federal funding will account for 90 percent of the total costs. The city and Florida Department of Transportation will each contribute 5 percent or about $120,000 each toward the project.

With more than 80,000 annual flight operations, the airport went from being a municipal to a regional airport in November. According to a release, the seaplane base at Gilbert Field (GIF) has been the largest seaplane training base in the country for more than 50 years. Mayor Brad Dantzler and Commissioner William Twyford, the commission’s liaison to the airport, could not be reached for comment.

“This is great news for Winter Haven and all of Central Florida,” Soto said in the release. “GIF is already an essential part of our community, connecting our local economy to statewide markets. As our region continues to grow and welcome a larger number of yearly visitors, we must be prepared to meet the increasing flight needs of our state. These federal funds will go toward critical improvements to the Winter Haven Airport’s facilities.”

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