KALISPELL — As Glacier Park International Airport (GPIA) in Kalispell continues to see record growth, additional federal funds are coming their way.
“Money’s always hard to come by and the bottom line is that this is a pretty significant investment, it’s probably not going to meet all their needs, but I think it will help a lot,” U.S Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) told MTN News.
GPIA will receive $14.5 million in federal funding over the next five years through the infrastructure package signed into law last November.
“The bottom line is this money is very flexible and it’s going to give the airport director here the ability to plan for the future and move forward in a way that meets the needs,” said Sen. Tester.
That future is already here as the airport is undergoing a $100 million expansion project that will nearly triple the existing square footage.
“Very well-timed, particularly with our estimates for phase two like construction everywhere, those estimates are going up and so this money is very well-timed to meet those increases,” said Airport Director Rob Ratkowski
Ratkowski said GPIA was the second busiest airport in the state in 2021, seeing passenger travel increase by 17% over 2019.
“We’re thinking that it’s going to moderate a little bit, we’re hoping that we don’t see 17% years, year-over-year again, but we’re planning for 3-to-5% growth every year going up from here so, we really don’t see a retracement of any kind in our passenger counts,” added Ratkowski.
As the Flathead Valley continues to see substantial population growth, Sen. Tester said these funds are vital in keeping Montana’s infrastructure growth on pace.
“So, Montana’s been discovered, and it doesn't matter if you’re in northwest Montana, western Montana, southwest Montana, or even eastern Montana, folks are moving here and airports are going to continue to get busier and busier, the demand on these airports are going to be critical for economic growth and so if you don’t have the infrastructure you certainly are not going to meet the needs of our state, that was the driving force behind getting these dollars." - US Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
GPIA received their first allocation of $2.8 million through the infrastructure package in December of 2021.