Deal plugs state transportation funding at airport door dedication

Gov. Nathan Deal took a moment Wednesday to plug new state funding streams making projects like the $1 million refurbishment of hangar doors at Daniel Field possible.

 

Guests dined on shrimp and grits at a public door dedication held Wednesday inside the hangar, and the newly-powered and refinished doors swept open at the end. The project was funded by Transportation Investment Act dollars and dedicated to Augustans who voted for the legislation.

The Central Savannah River Area region, comprised of 13 Georgia counties, voted in 2012 to approve the TIA, an additional 1 percent sales tax now budgeted for some $728 million in projects, in 2011 dollars, over 10 years. Many projects are under way now.

"Your region was one of three that had the foresight to take advantage of that," Deal said. Now, "other regions are looking - and having a little bit of buyer's remorse."

Deal – busy touring the state to promote his Opportunity School District plan on the Nov. 8 ballot - suggested bringing area schoolchildren to the Highland Avenue airport to expose them to the area's history of flight, including the airport's role as a military airfield during World War II.

He went on to tout House Bill 170, his 2015 effort to generate what is now funding another $1 billion a year he said will soon resurface 2,500 miles of roads and rebuild or repair more than 300 bridges statewide.

"Georgia has never had the opportunity to make those kinds of improvements within such a short period of time," he said. "We're now the envy of almost every state in the union."

Mayor Hardie Davis championed the airport's ability to self-sustain, with help from the TIA, and its vital role in organ transplant flights. Lifelink Foundation Vice President Lee Langley said the airport's proximity to area hospitals make it a critical hub in its statewide network transporting some 5,500 organs annually.

State Representative-elect Mark Newton, R-Augusta, compared the fast-paced TIA construction schedule to his work as an emergency room physician. With the subsequent passage of House Bill 170, "it's nice to see we got a jump start in our area," he said.

Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams said the Daniel Field project "helped improve a business element of our community, and helps our economy grow."

Daniel Field General Aviation Commission Chairman Tim Martin thanked airport staffers Becky Shealy and Steve Gay for recognizing the TIA could be used for the long-needed restoration and pushing state transportation member Don Grantham to make sure it was included.

"It's a very unique project," Martin said. "As far as I know, there aren't any other doors being restored."

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