Two local airports have received federal grants to make runway improvements.

Ennis-Big Sky Airport has received $9.3 million for runway improvements, which will be completed over the next few years, said airport manager Troy Hunter.

The improvements will include widening, lengthening and decreasing the slope of the runway. Once the project is complete, airlines may land larger aircraft, place fewer weight restrictions on their flights, and take off and land with greater ease in bad weather.

During construction, which will begin next spring, the airport’s sole runway may have to close intermittently, Hunter said.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, helped the Ennis-Big Sky Airport get money.

“Montanans rely on airports to support the economy, provide access to lifesaving flights and connect families,” Tester said in a news release. “Investing in local infrastructure will help support businesses in Madison and Gallatin counties and get folks where they need to go.”

Through a separate Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program grant, which requires a local match, the airport received $2 million this year to reconstruct its south apron and taxiway.

“These projects will help us update areas of our airport, improving service and giving them much-needed attention,” Hunter said.

Yellowstone Airport near West Yellowstone received about $400,000 for runway improvements through an Airport Improvement Program Grant. The airport has to match about 8% of the money with local dollars.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, announced the grant in a news release this week. The federal dollars will “lead to greater access for Montana’s visitors and a thriving tourism industry,” Daines said.

The runway improvements, which include repainting signage and applying a coating to the asphalt, are routine maintenance and will likely be completed this summer, said airport manager Jeff Kadlec.

“It’s great that we got these funds because they help keep the airport open and safe,” he said.

Yellowstone Airport is also seeking an Airport Improvement Program grant of about $200,000 to complete an environmental assessment for construction of a new terminal that will replace the existing one, which was constructed in 1964. Kadlec said he anticipates receiving this money later in the summer.

Daines and Tester have long advocated in the U.S. Senate for Montana airports, securing millions of dollars to help expand and improve service, including at the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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