XNA projects to receive $13.41 million in federal money

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,023 views 

A new control tower and connector road for Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill will receive more than half of the $25.6 million in federal funding for 11 projects in the 3rd Congressional District. The money comes from the $1.7 trillion federal spending law for fiscal year 2023.

On Dec. 29, President Joe Biden signed the spending bill that Congress approved the previous week. In April, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, requested funding from the House Committee on Appropriations for the 11 projects. In November, Womack was reelected with 63.7% of the vote.

According to a Tuesday (Jan. 3) news release from Womack, XNA will receive $6.41 million for a new air traffic control tower to replace the 24-year-old temporary tower. Womack’s initial funding request in April showed the existing control tower has a cab height of 47 feet, which is inadequate for Federal Aviation Administration requirements. The new FAA-compliant tower is expected to have a cab height of 124 feet.

Alex English, public affairs manager for XNA, said AJT Engineering was hired in early 2022 to complete phase one site selection and sighting study for the new tower. XNA staff are expected to meet with the design team next week as the design is nearly 30% completed. According to XNA documents, the tower is expected to cost $15.49 million and be completed in April 2025.

“We are thankful to Congressman Womack and John Boozman for their support of this critically important project,” said Jim Krall, chairman of the XNA Board of Directors. “This new air traffic control tower will improve safety and visibility and allow us to meet important accessibility requirements. This investment will ensure that XNA is equipped to meet the aviation needs of our growing region.”

The Arkansas Department of Transportation will receive $7 million for the connector road project. The money will be used for the planning, design and construction of the road, often referred to as the XNA access road. In a recent board meeting, XNA officials said right-of-way is being purchased for the road. Construction could start as early as 2024 and be completed by 2027.

In June, the Federal Highway Administration approved a finding of no significant impact for the fully-controlled access highway that would run from a future segment of Arkansas Highway 612, west of Arkansas Highway 112, to Arkansas Highway 264, at the south entrance of XNA. It would include an interchange at Highway 612, or the U.S. Highway 412 bypass. Federal documents show the cost estimate for the 3.4-mile road was $94 million.

“Congressman Womack continually provides strong and effective representation of Northwest Arkansas,” said Arkansas Highway Commissioner Philip Taldo. “The Arkansas Department of Transportation is extremely grateful for his efforts in securing funding to construct a new location connection between the Northwest Arkansas National Airport and the Springdale Northern Bypass. The XNA connector is an important and necessary addition to NWA’s transportation network that will result in decreased congestion, decreased misdirection and increased reliability for motorists accessing this airport, which has become so important to the region’s travelers.”

Between January and November 2022, XNA’s enplanements, or passengers flying out, increased by 38.2% to 768,065, from 555,406 in the same period in 2021.

The federal spending law also included money for the following projects in the 3rd District:

  • $4 million for the city of Mulberry for transportation infrastructure improvements in the city’s industrial park
  • $2.16 million for the city of Yellville to upgrade its wastewater infrastructure
  • $2 million for Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale to expand its Allied Health Facility
  • $1 million for Startup Junkie Foundation in Fayetteville to support the Arkansas Venture Expansion Project that’s designed to stimulate economic vitality and boost the resiliency of Arkansas entrepreneurship
  • $1 million for the Berryville Public Library to help build a new library building
  • $880,000 for the city of Goshen to buy land to expand Mill Branch Park
  • $730,000 for Arkansas Tech University in Russellville to enhance its agricultural education program
  • $355,000 for NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville for its new commercial driver’s license (CDL) training and truck driving program
  • $137,000 for the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force for needed resources and equipment to combat illegal narcotics and drug traffickers.