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Expansion has been cleared for takeoff at Maryland Airport in Indian Head following an announcement Monday that the airport has received federal money to complete a portion of a runway extension plan.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari traveled to the airport Monday to formally announce that it has been awarded a $2.8 million grant from the Department of Transportation. The money will be used to aid in phase three of runway and taxiway expansion at the airport, which has operated in Charles County since 1945.

The improvements includes regrading and paving the taxiway and runway, along with grading to prepare for the project’s next phase. At completion, the runway will be 4,300 feet long and could potentially extend to 5,000 feet. It also will include parking for up to 70 aircraft.

Hoyer said that the approval of the grant is part of a larger commitment to maintaining the area’s economic viability and ensuring that it remains competitive.

“The health of Indian Head is vital to our economy,” Hoyer said. “[Airport owner] Gil [Bauserman] has a vision and I think the county, the community and I share the thought that this can be a catalyst for the community. It’s one small part of a concerted effort to improve our infrastructure.”

Porcari echoed Hoyer’s sentiments.

“This grant will improve the Maryland Airport’s infrastructure and will keep aircraft and their passengers moving safely and efficiently through Maryland and the Washington metro area,” Porcari said. “Investments such as this not only improve safety, capacity and environmental stewardship, but economic growth as well, making it a win-win scenario for the state.”

Bauserman said that with the money received from the grant,the airport is one step closer to completing a four-pronged revamping process which he began in 1993.

“The expansion has been a vision of mine for 19 years,” Bauserman said. “This will be the closest general aviation airport to [Washington, D.C.] and I suspect it’s going to be a boon to Southern Maryland and Prince George’s County.”

Airport employee Jeremy Hill estimated that the airport sees about three or four flights arriving and departing daily, with around 1,500 annually. When the improvements are completed, Hill said he hopes to see a “pretty big increase” in the amount of runway traffic.

Charles County Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D), in whose district the airport is located, sees the improvements to the airport as having the potential to provide marked economic growth for the county.

“When I think of this airport, I think of ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Davis said. “This will boost economic development by leaps and bounds. You can only imagine the potential that this has. ... It’s limitless.”

County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) added that the airport provides a valuable, if oft-overlooked service.

“General aviation usually flies under the radar, but we only miss it when it’s gone. I think we saw this after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Reagan National was closed to general aviation for many years,” Robinson said. “The ability to handle corporate jets will make Charles County important for ... aviation and economic development.”

lrenner@somdnews.com