Regional, provincial and federal politicians gathered at the Region of Waterloo International Airport Wednesday morning to officially unveil the airports new combined maintenance and fire hall facility, along with more then $3 million in new funding.
Federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Denis Lebel announced an investment of $3.2 million in improvements at the airport, including the rehabilitation of pavement on one of the airport’s runways.
He also participated in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new 24,000-square-foot building that will be used as a fire hall and for maintenance and other support services.
“I’m happy to be here on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to bring good news to Waterloo Region,” Lebel told the crowd of about 100 politicians, airport staff and media. “We recognize that efficient and safe airports are vital to the local economies of smaller communities, which is why we are investing in safety improvement projects at regional and local airports across the country.”
The money is part of the government’s $20.9 million investment in 23 airports across the country under the Airports Capital Assistance Program.
“We had set out to build an airport that reflects the needs of this community, with input from the community,” said regional Chair Ken Seiling. “We look at this as not only [supporting] recreational flying but also supporting industry and providing incentive for greater passenger trips throughout the community.”
The announcement was made inside the airport’s new multipurpose facility, made possible by the governments of Canada and Ontario, which each committed nearly $2.4 million toward the project through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, while the Regional Municipality of Waterloo contributed the balance of the total, approximately $7.1 million.
“This is a great new facility that will mean the Region of Waterloo International Airport can continue to grow and improve transportation services,” said Leeanna Pendergast, MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.
“Growing will mean more jobs, more opportunities, and most important, the safety of all people that use this airport remains top priority.”
The $3.2-million investment comes just weeks after the Greater Toronto Airport Authority released a report to Transport Canada suggesting that by 2023 Pearson International Airport would be overwhelmed by passengers and traffic, requiring nearby airports – such as Waterloo Region’s – to be expanded to handle the overflow.
The 289-page report suggested that the Breslau airport would need to handle 6.9 million passengers annually, a significant increase from the 105,000 passengers who moved through the airport in 2010.
Lebel said that discussions surrounding the future of the airport are continuing, and that he supports local MPs and politicians and trusts their opinions surrounding the airport, as they know better than him what is best for the local economy and for local residents.