The Tinian International Airport’s needs to have additional infrastructure so it could provide service to other aircraft and service flights that would improve the island’s economy came to light during a recent visit by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The U.S. Department of Defense has already chosen Tinian for the U.S. Air Forces’ divert airfield projects, but Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, said the airport’s commercial operations would be part of the improvements planned for the Tinian hub.
“We talked about seawalls, piers, hotels, monuments. Really a full breadth on airports and other issues. It is important for the Navy and U.S. [military] to have a place to land, especially for the tankers,” he said.
Zinke inspected Tinian last Sept. 6 when he made a brief visit in the Marianas that also included stops on Saipan and in Guam. His visit came after DoD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Basing Allison Sands visited Tinian last month.
“For the commercial airport, we’re looking at what it takes to improve it. There’s some infrastructure that’s required and we’ve looked very hard into that. Because if you’re going to build hotels and have a service industry, you would not only need ships at the port but you also need to have an airport that would service a moderate degree of aircraft,” added Zinke.
He said that would bring the Tinian airport at par to the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. “We looked at what would it take to form that into a commercial hub for planes. Whether they are coming from Saipan or be able to go from there [Tinian].”
Zinke added that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also looked into Tinian’s seawall issues, “about seawalls and piers and to see how we can address that.”
He said he could be the first Interior secretary to visit Saipan and his stop is a testament to the friendship he and Torres have cultivated. “This wasn’t our first conversation. We’ve been friends since I became a member of [President Trump’s] Cabinet and…the governor and I had multiple discussions, re-emphasizing the friendship and working together. It is the partnership. You have a great governor who is at the frontline of really watching the economy and is very innovative.
A total of $50.7 million is expected to come in for the divert airfield project after Trump signed H.R. 5515 or the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 last month.
Forty-six million dollars will fund the construction of a cargo pad and taxiway extension while the remaining money, $4.7 million, will be used in building a maintenance support facility at the northern portion of the Tinian International Airport.