The future of the Waco Regional Airport is under review, and the public is invited to learn more about the project and the direction local leaders hope to take.

A new airport master plan will guide the next 20 years of the airport and outline expected development costs, financing methods and management options. The draft covers the future role of the airport in local, regional and national systems and outlines a growing demand for a larger terminal and increased air service for the Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is expected to add more than 31,500 people in the next 21 years, according to the document.

The public information workshop will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the airport terminal building, 7909 Karl May Drive. The come-and-go session is meant to inform residents about the airport’s overall maintenance, development and operations.

The two most significant factors for choosing an airport are convenience and cost, placing Waco’s airport in a strong position to continue to attract passengers, according to the master plan draft.

Guests will hear about proposed construction projects that involve runways, drainage, safety areas, the terminal buildings and parking, Waco Regional Airport manager Joel Martinez said. The master plan is close to completion as city officials work to share the information with the public, Martinez said. It is expected to be finalized by June, he said.

American Eagle operates the airport’s only commercial flights: five daily nonstop trips to Dallas-Fort Worth.

It’s important to keep the public, whose taxes support the facility, involved in the process as officials move forward, Martinez said. Some of the proposed major projects will determine whether elected city leaders issue bonds to finance the work, he said.

The master plan, which was last done in 2002, is being prepared by Missouri-based Coffman Associates Inc. and Walker Partners, the airport’s engineer of record. The city of Waco received a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for the plan that covers 90 percent of the fixed-fee project cost. The city covers the remaining 10 percent.

“The cost of maintaining an airport is an investment which yields impressive benefits to the local community,” the plan states. “Moreover, the plan will aid in supporting decisions for directing limited and valuable city resources for future airport development. Ultimately, the continued investments in the airport will allow the city of Waco to reap the economic benefits generated by historical investments.”

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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