Special to the Times
Altus Mayor T.L. Gramling announced today that $3.3 million in funding for two Altus transportation projects is included in a bill expected to be considered in the U.S. Senate on Jan. 20, 2004.
Gramling has been working with members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation to secure funding for the widening of Park Lane in Altus as well as improvements needed at the Altus/Quartz Mountain Regional Airport. These projects may help make Altus Air Force Base more appealing to the Air Force as it heads into the Base Realignment and Closure process.
Third District Congressman Frank Lucas took the lead in working with the Appropriations Committee in the House to secure funding for these projects. Fifth District Congressman Ernest Istook was very instrumental in this process as well. As chairman of the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Istook was able to ensure that these projects were included in the bill that passed the House on Dec. 8. Oklahoma Sens. Don Nickles and Jim Inhofe have also been very helpful in moving these projects through the appropriations process in the Senate.
The Fiscal Year 2004 Transportation Appropriations Act includes $2.8 million to widen Park Lane to four lanes between Falcon Road and the Tamarack/Veterans Bypass. Park Lane is currently four lanes from its southern beginning at Ridge Crest to Falcon Road. The portion of Park Lane between Falcon Road and Tamarack is currently two lanes.
Park Lane is a major thoroughfare in Altus. All major east/west highways and roads in Altus intersect Park Lane, including Falcon Road. Falcon Road is the primary traffic artery leading into the Main Gate of the Air Force Base. The section of Park Lane between Falcon Road and Tamarack, if widened to four lanes, may improve the flow of traffic through the city, which may also improve the flow of traffic into and out of the base. The improvements to Park Lane may also assist to bolster the security procedures on the base, which have been significantly elevated since Sept. 11, 2001.
The bill also contains $500,000 for improvement at the Altus/Quartz Mountain Regional Airport including taxiway improvements, additional lengthening of the runway, drainage improvements, perimeter fencing and airport security components. The airport provides aviation services including hangar space, fuel service, aircraft security components. The airport provides aviation services including hangar space, fuel ser vice, aircraft repairs and pilot services to approximately 40 permanently based private aircraft and ten commercial aircraft. The 1995 BRAC criteria indicates that these improvements are needed at Altus' civilian airport. As a result, these improvements may reflect favorably on Altus in the upcoming BRAC round.
In addition, Southwest Technology Center operates a technical school at the airport providing instruction in aircraft repairs and maintenance. This has significant BRAC implications as it provides trained employees for the base and its support contractors.
The projects may be very helpful in making Altus competitive with other similar military installations as the BRAC process moves forward in the coming months. In previous BRAC rounds, the ability of committees' local infrastructure to support military forces, missions and personnel has been one of the primary criteria for base closure or realignment.