ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Replacing the St. George airport is one of six federal transportation projects that have been put on the fast track.
The action announced Tuesday is expected to speed up environmental assessments and permit reviews.
City staff conducted an environmental assessment process after the airport's initial approval, but a court ruled the analysis did not give an adequate examination of potential noise issues, and further examination was ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration.
'This (environmental study) is the bottleneck right now," said Mark Johnson, a consultant working on the study.
The noise assessment, which includes potential effects on Zion National Park, area communities and surrounding wilderness areas, is about 40 percent complete, Johnson said.
Johnson said he anticipates holding a public information meeting in November and hopes to have a draft by spring, with a a public hearing on the document by late spring.
Johnson said the selection of the project for the fast track will ensure that the federal agencies give the project high priority and streamline the decisions based on the EIS results.
David Ulane, St. George airport manager, expects final EIS approval by November 2005 and FAA approval by mid-2006.
Ulane said he is excited to have the airport on the fast track because of the benefits the new airport will bring to the community, including more hanger and ramp space, as well as a longer runway that will accommodate larger planes and jet service.
However, if the environmental study uncovers more issues, there is a possibility the airport will not be constructed at the proposed location, which would result in another delay.
Other projects selected by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta for the fast track include finishing Route 11 in Connecticut, and a project to connect several northwestern Georgia counties with Interstate 75. Three other projects will be announced later in the week.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)