Alaska DOT has identified 18 rural airports it may close or spend less time maintaining

The airport in Aleknagik. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; Division of Community and Regional Affairs’ Community Photo Library)

Last year, the state’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities started to look for ways to cut costs at the more than 200 airports it owns and operates.

The vast majority of those airports are in rural areas and get fewer than 2,500 passengers each year. And that’s where the state is exploring ways to reduce its workload.

Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner John Binder told legislators in a House finance subcommittee last week that the Department of Transportation, or DOT, has flagged 18 airports that it could close, sell or spend less time maintaining.

But Binder said the process will take time.

“We certainly do not have the intent to go out and just rapidly close a bunch of airports,” he said.

Some of the airports DOT has targeted are in areas where there isn’t much of a need for them anymore.

“Aleknagik, for example, we completed a bridge out in Dillingham that connected that community with the larger town of Dillingham, reducing the need for that airport,” he said.

While DOT has targeted these airports for changes, it’s still early in the process with many of them.  But Binder said they’ve taken the first steps to transfer ownership of the airport at Aleknagik. It has also moved to stop maintaining and to close the airport at Portage Creek.

Binder said it takes time to go through a process with the Federal Aviation Administration to change how it manages each airport. They’ll also talk to the communities, tenants and pilots that use each airport.

He said DOT is hoping to get through a lot of that process in the next year.

The airports the state has targeted for a reduction in maintenance are Flat, Lawing, Ophir, Sheep Mountain, Basin Creek, Funter Bay, Livengood, Bettles SPB, Goose Bay, Naknek, Quartz Creek (Cooper Landing), Excursion Inlet SPB, Kasilof, Ninilchik, and Quartz Creek (Kougarok).