Citing the importance of the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to the area’s tourism and business industries, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously and enthusiastically gave final approval to the construction of a new passenger terminal at the facility.
The new terminal will cost an estimated $35.4 million. Construction is expected to start in October and will take about 18 months to complete, said Kevin Bumen, airport manager.
The new terminal is needed because the old one is too close to the runway and is a safety threat, Bumen said. Ninety percent of the cost will come from grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and other sources, while the county will fund about $3.5 million.
A dozen business and community leaders urged supervisors to approve the facility, which has been 17 years in the planning. No one spoke against the new terminal.
Michael Manchak, president of the Economic Vitality Corp., a nonprofit economic development organization, said the airport has a $177 million economic impact and is vital for keeping the county connected to the rest of the country.
“The airport is an economic engine,” he said.
Chuck Davison, president of Visit San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit that promotes the county, said the airport benefits the county’s tourism industry because air travel can be an easier way to reach the county than by driving.
“Those traveling by air tend to stay longer and spend more money than those traveling by car,” he said.
The need for a new terminal was identified in 1998. Plans to build a new facility were put on hold in 2008 as a result of the recession. The economy has picked up to the point that the new facility is warranted, said Dan Buckshi, county administrative officer.
“If we are going to build a new terminal in the next 25 years, now is the time,” he said.
Supervisors agreed. “This is long overdue, and I think we are headed in the right direction,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said.