Congress to elevate status of Youngstown-Warren Regional AIrport

Staff file photos / R. Michael Semple The exterior of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna in February 2017. The U.S. Senate is poised to pass a bill that includes designating the facility as a “primary airport,” which would make it eligible for additional federal funding for maintenance and improvements.

The U.S. Senate is poised to pass a bill that includes designating the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport as a “primary airport,” making it eligible for additional federal funding for maintenance and improvements.

The primary airport language is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Reauthorization Act the Senate will approve no later than Friday, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Brown, D-Ohio, co-sponsored the language to help the airport with U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.

“Getting this designation for the Mahoning Valley is crucial for the future of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station,” Brown said Wednesday during a telephone call with reporters.

The airport lost its last commercial air service, Allegiant Air, in January 2018, causing the FAA to remove the primary airport designation.

When that happened, the FAA reduced the annual funding for maintenance and improvements at the Vienna-based airport from $1 million to $150,000 annually.

It is the only commercial airport in the country with an attached air reserve station that doesn’t have commercial air service. The reserve station uses the runways at the airport.

The legislation carves out an exemption for only Youngstown-Warren to be a primary airport by adding a line to the United States Code about public airports with military use. It states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a public airport in use by an air reserve station shall be considered a primary airport for purpose of this chapter.”

Anthony Trevena, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which operates the airport, said the designation is “significant” because when the FAA downgraded the airport to a “general aviation facility,” the annual federal funding was greatly dropped.

Reinstating the funding is “essential for the continued growth and operation of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and ensuring its sustained development and success,” said Trevena, who was on Wednesday’s call with Brown.

The downgrade also meant that during the pandemic, when other airports of similar size were receiving $2 million to $4 million in COVID-19 relief funds, Youngstown-Warren got $59,000, Trevena said.

The airport greatly needs to maintain its runways, which are 111 lane miles in total, Trevena said. It costs about $1.7 million to $1.8 million to maintain them annually, he said.

The runways at the airport haven’t been paved in about 27 years, Trevena said.

Trevena said FAA officials have said if the runways aren’t improved, the agency could potentially reduce the length of the runways.

But that is no longer an issue as the airport received commitments from the federal government for $19.1 million to repave the runways and $3 million from the state for matching dollars, he said. The work should be done in the next couple of years.

Brown secured $6.1 million for the runways in a federal earmark in March. The port authority received an $8.03 million federal grant in September to resurface the 9,000-foot taxiway that leads to the facility’s main runway and connects to the reserve station, and in December 2022, former-U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan got a $5 million federal earmark for the runway resurfacing work.

The U.S. House approved its FAA reauthorization legislation in July 2023 that included a provision to make the airport a primary airport.

It was originally proposed as separate legislation in April 2023 by U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, and Republican Bill Johnson, who resigned in January to become Youngstown State University president.

That House legislation will be amended by the lower chamber, Brown said, in order to make it a more bipartisan bill. But it will include the primary airport designation for Youngstown-Warren, he said.

Shortly after Joyce and Johnson introduced the bill in the House, Brown and Vance proposed it in the Senate.

YARS is also growing with eight new C-130J Super Hercules planes coming to the base with the first one expected in July. The second plane will come a few months later and the other six will arrive in 2025. The eight planes cost about $1 billion in total.

The base two weeks ago had a groundbreaking on an $11 million main gate relocation project that should be finished in August 2025.

It received approval in March for a $2.5 million federal earmark, sponsored by Brown, to be used for planning and design work for a new fire station. The station itself is estimated to cost $25 million.

Have an interesting story? Contact David Skolnick by email at dskolnick@vindy.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @dskolnick.


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