On May 23, the federal government announced $28 million for a new Thompson airport terminal, taxiways and water treatment plant from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF).
This announcement took place at Thompson’s current airport, which Thompson Regional Airport Authority (TRAA) representatives say is crumbling due to the discontinuous permafrost beneath its foundation.
That permafrost is ultimately what convinced the federal government to turn over this funding, since the DMAF is designed to help communities with infrastructure that is suffering from the effects of climate change.
“The Thompson Regional Airport Authority has already taken steps to assess its airport area and determine what needs to be done to strengthen its future,” said Saint Boniface-Saint Vital Liberal MP Dan Vandal, who made the announcement on behalf of Infrastructure and Communities Minister François-Philippe Champagne. “And with today’s funding we are providing the TRAA with the financial support that is needed to carry out these vital improvements.”
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) representative Hilda Anderson-Pyrz said the Thompson airport is a lifeline to remote Northern Manitoba communities.
“Many are remote and isolated that require air transportation in and out of the community. And if we don’t have the infrastructure then it’ll be difficult for us to access food security, access economic opportunities … and, most importantly, access medical care.”
Nobody was happier about the announcement than TRAA CEO Curtis Ross, who’s been working on improving the airport ever since he was hired for this job 15 years ago.
Outside of spending $70 million on this new terminal, Ross said the TRAA has already invested $35 million into keeping the current facility operational, which involved extending the runway, repairing the apron and replacing failing electrical systems.
“These are no small feats,” he said on Thursday. “I have a tremendous team behind me. We will continue to work on making the city and region a better place. We want to send a message that we are very much alive and open for business.”
Following Ross’s speech, a large chunk of the meeting’s attendees also participated in a ground-breaking ceremony near the site of the TRAA’s new water treatment plant, which is an additional piece of infrastructure the airport needs in order to function.
Ross said work on the plant has already been tendered and construction will begin sometime in June.
The TRAA CEO wants to get piles for the new terminal building in the ground by winter and wrap up the project in three-and-a-half years’ time.
“This is a large project,” he said. “This is $70 million of development in Northern Manitoba and $28 million of it is coming from the federal government. So it’s definitely going to be something that is not built overnight.”
During a public meeting from May 2018, Ross said the new terminal is going to be roughly 42,240 square feet and will put a bigger emphasis on passenger amenities like concession areas, improved baggage claim and ample queuing space for security screenings.