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Airport expansions get off the ground 

The SLO County Airport received $556,685 to build more parking for airplanes. It’s just a fraction of the total cost, but one of the first steps in a list of airport expansion projects.

Airport Manager Richard Howell said the U.S. Department of Transportation grant for new parking would ensure there’s enough room to keep existing parked planes from spilling onto the runway.

Building the new parking will probably cost another $6.5 million or more. There’s no guarantee but Howell believes Congress could approve the remaining money for construction costs by April or May.

The project is just one of the expansions officials hope will reinvigorate a struggling airport.

Designs for a larger terminal are still in the works. If approved by SLO County supervisors, the new terminal could qualify for federal stimulus funds. Local officials missed the first deadline, but Howell believes there would be more funding avenues for the project.

The airport will be expanding at a time when fewer people are flying out of SLO. Business dropped about 15 percent by the end of 2008, Howell said. American and Delta airlines dropped flights last year.

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