Missoula Current: Infrastructure funding helps Missoula airport expand operations

by Martin Kidston

Infrastructure funding announced this week by Sen. Jon Tester will bring $3.4 million to Missoula Montana Airport to help it continue its expansion and plan for future operations.

Airport Director Brian Ellestad said funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is ultimately awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration. It will help the airport in a number of ways, Ellestad said.

“These are great projects that will improve safety and efficiency at the airport,” he said Friday. “The deicing pad goes from two spots to three, and that alleviates any potential delays for deicing. A lot of the money goes to our new terminal as well, and we have some new parking spots opening up.”

While expanding the deicing pad will help streamline commercial airline operations in the winter, it will also benefit summer operations.

During fire season, Ellestad said, the airport can be short on places to park helicopters. The third deicing pad will expand that summer parking. It will also help address overnight parking of commercial aircraft.

“It allowed us to do some spacing on our new terminal, so we can add another overnight parking spot,” said Ellstad. “It really checked a lot of boxes for us.”

With extra space, the airport’s overnight parking went from four aircraft to five, each served by a jet bridge. Phase 2 of the terminal project, which is now under construction at the east concourse, will add two more jet ridges and two additional ground boarding gates.

The airport has applied for funding in hopes of rolling from Phase 2 into Phase 3, which would accommodate another aircraft.

“We applied a month ago and it usually takes four to six months to hear anything,” Ellestad said.

The Missoula airport, along with others in the state, has received funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in several allotments in recent years. While Tester was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to support the legislation, other Republicans backed it, making it one of the largest infrastructure investments in recent history.

“Montanans rely on safe and reliable service from rural and regional airports to grow their businesses and stay connected to family and friends – and investing in these airports is critically important to keep pace with growing demand and modern technology,” said Tester.