KONA – The state Department of Transportation celebrated the dedication of a new Air Traffic Control Tower and a groundbreaking for a new Aircraft Rescue and Fire-Fighting (ARFF) facility at the Kona International Airport earlier today.

The new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control Tower will provide improved visibility over all movement areas and air traffic patterns.  It replaces the previous tower which had served Kona International since July 1970.  Construction on the new tower began in December 2009 at an approximate cost of $34.86 million.

Ground was also broken for a new 24,000 square-foot ARFF facility which will include two truck bays, a trailer bay and a fueling area, along with improved work and living areas for firefighters, office space, dorm rooms and a workout area.  The new station will replace the existing ARFF station, originally built in 1980.  FAA funding will cover $14.6 million, or nearly 86-percent, of the total project cost of $17 million and state funds will provide the remainder.

“Kona International Airport is the gateway for visitors and residents alike and the new fire-fighting station and FAA tower will enable us to continue to provide a safe environment,” said Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui.  “This is also an important investment to support our economic driver – tourism.”

“This investment in operational upgrades represents a strong commitment by the state and federal government to ensure safety and operational efficiency,” said DOT Director Glenn Okimoto.  “These projects also pave the way for further improvements at Kona International Airport, including a terminal modernization that is part of Governor Neil Abercrombie’s New Day Work Projects.”

“Watching these projects come to fruition is a testament to the hard work and cooperation of so many people in state and federal government, airport stakeholders, and the construction industry,” said DOT Deputy Director of Airports, Ford Fuchigami.  “Our improvements are the direct result of this collaboration and we are very thankful for these continuing efforts.”

The new Air Traffic Control Tower went into operation in December of last year and the ARFF station is anticipated to be completed in spring of 2013.