Federal funding was announced Tuesday for a project designed to open up space for new hangar development at East Texas Regional Airport.

The $1.5 million Federal Aviation Administration grant, announced by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, will require a $150,000 local match to build a new taxiway at the county-owned airport.

County Judge Bill Stoudt said the project is part of the airport’s five-year plan, and the county match has been budgeted. He also said the project will create space for hangar development and that the new taxiway will accommodate larger aircraft at the increasingly popular airport.

“It’ll be a wide enough taxiway, with the wingspan (space), that we’ll be able to take pretty heavy iron at the airport — that’s just slang for big airplanes,” Stoudt said. “We’ve got the matching funds, so we’re good to go. We’re starting to get some people that are moving private airplanes to Gregg County just because of the (26.25-cent) tax rate. We’ve got some that moved from Shreveport over here.”

Airport Director Roy Miller said the taxiway now at the airport is positioned such that new development is challenged.

“This will open up a new area where folks can build hangars and access the airfield,” Miller said. “We’re finalizing plans now, and we’ll go to bids probably by the middle of next month. We should begin construction in the September-October time frame.”

The timing of the bid process means the project will have no impact on the Great Texas Balloon Race, which is set for July 26-28 at the airport.

Miller said ongoing hangar development in the southwest area of the airport is on the opposite side of the campus and should have no bearing on Longview’s annual hot air balloon festival.

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