Dodge City — The possibility of establishing a regional airport in Garden City has gained traction now that a state-supported program has earmarked money for the concept.
The Wichita-based Regional Economic Area Partnership announced earlier this week that it had awarded $250,000 to the Garden City Regional Airport. The money is intended to help Garden City offer commercial air service to Dallas.
But the grant is contingent on Dodge City and Garden City officials teaming up to attract commercial jet service to Garden City, according to The Dodge City Globe. Officials in both cities said they have not decided yet whether to coordinate their efforts. The two cities are located about 50 miles apart in southwest Kansas.
Garden City has asked Dodge City to consider relinquishing part of its subsidy from the federal Essential Air Service program, which supports rural commercial air service. Under the proposal, the two cities would pool resources to establish a regional airport in Garden City.
"We realize the significance of what we are asking and the positive impact commercial air service has had on both our communities over the last three decades," Garden City officials wrote in a July 5 letter to the Dodge City Commission.
"As costs for airlines have continued to increase and the program's budget continues to decrease, our staffs and elected officials have recognized and informally discussed the inevitability of fewer airports in southwest Kansas with commercial air service. In this context, we offer an invitation to combine resources, mutually control the creation of 'regional service,' and secure a long-term solution for our communities," the letter said.
Dodge City and Garden City officials have considered establishing a regional airport before, but those discussions became more urgent recently because Congress may decide to eliminate the Essential Air Service program, Dodge City Manager Ken Strobel said. He said that possibility made the idea of regionalization "a little more intense" now.
"The EAS program has come under attack in the past, but never really did we feel that the program was in jeopardy," he said. "This year, however, there's more concern that the program may be phased out or funding cut substantially."