BECKLEY — An extension of the access road to an industrial park has been assured at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport Industrial Park with $978,120 in federal funding announced Tuesday by West Virginia’s congressional delegation.

The idea is to improve traffic flow and safety for the park by offering an alternate access from Airport Road at the federal Mine Health and Safety Academy within half a mile of Interstate 64.

For now, there is only “one way in and one way out,” noted Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and this poses a safety concern, especially in winter weather since traffic delays by snow and others created by accidents at any time could threaten the airport’s closure.

Thirty businesses and the federal prison likewise are at risk.

“Improving access to our airport facilities is vitally important so that we can fully utilize these important transportation options in southern West Virginia,” Rahall said.

“This funding is a critical component in expanding economic development opportunities in the industrial park area, while also increasing additional traffic entry and exit capabilities at the airport, increasing the safety and security of operations in and around the airport, its perimeter and the businesses that the industrial park serves.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va., termed it “terrific news,” saying rural airports are vital to the local economy.

The additional funding will “bolster the industrial park and create a safe access road, making Raleigh County an even better place to travel to and do business,” he added.

Rahall is pursing some $2.5 million for an air control tower at the Beckley airport as a means of ensuring Federal Aviation Administration safety compliance. That also would provide economic opportunities for corporate aviation maintenance centers, creating new jobs and raising revenue from land leases and fuel sales.

Rahall pointed out he, Rockefeller and Sen. Robert C. Byrd, also D-W.Va., backed the stimulus package that included $13.8 million to enhance West Virginia’s rural airports.

“Today we must actively work to protect, improve and encourage growth and services to our rural airports because investing in them invests in our communities, providing quality transportation alternatives and business connections to the country, linking West Virginia and encouraging growth,” Rahall added.

From Staff Reports – April 28, 2010