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Rounds: Rural airports prioritized in FAA Reauthorization Bill

City of Pierre

The U.S. Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. If it makes it through the House, it will keep America in the air for the next half-decade.

The bipartisan bill was overwhelmingly supported in the Senate on an 88 to 4 vote.

South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds said rural airports were prioritized.

“Number one, it provided resources so that small airports like the ones we got here in South Dakota can get funding to upgrade their facilities," Rounds said. "In this state you’ve got to have the ability to get an aircraft in and out in order to provide emergency services back into areas such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City that can really handle the vast majority of our really serious injuries.”

This comes at the same time state funding for air infrastructure was passed by Rapid City Senator David Johnson. Rounds says he sees the need for investment.

“You’ve got to have airports that are ready to go, and you’ve got to maintain them," Rounds said. "That’s what the funding comes into for rural communities. It’s an ongoing process of improving our airports.”

Another key issue for Rounds – essential air service to rural commercial airports. However, there won’t be any significant changes to come.

“That parts not going to change a whole lot, but you know what, it’s working in Pierre right now to get to Denver," Rounds said. "It’s just simply the timing they tried to do to get into Minneapolis didn’t seem to work for Pierre in terms of what the needs were going east. If you’re going west, you’re going on vacation, and you can take a day. Most folks going east probably aren’t going on vacation – they’re probably going to work getting to a meeting someplace east and getting back again. It was just the wrong time on it.”

The proposal now goes to the House of Representatives.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture