Using the $21.9 million that the Commonwealth Ports Authority got from the U.S. Department of Defense for its lease of a planned divert airfield on Tinian, CPA has set aside $20 million of that amount to upgrade the Tinian International Airport so it can accept international flights, while $1.9 million will be used for the Tinian seaport to upgrade the facility.
In an interview with CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, she stated that the money has yet to be touched, but the interest that has been building up, is not “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” as some have presumed, but only a few hundred dollars.
According to King-Hinds, it’s always been a goal for Tinian’s airport to accept international flights but the facility is not “very conducive” to landing international flights, which means it’s not suitable for international flights.
“The way the current terminal is designed makes it difficult, inconvenient, and inefficient to house both commuter and international flights. The terminal needs to not only support federal structures but address impact on commuter travel, which should be conducive to having a quick turnaround time,” said King-Hinds.
At first, she said, they thought it would just be federalization and fuel storage capacity, but knowing that both won’t be enough, they have to be wise with what they have and how they spend.
When asked about the timeframe on when the Tinian airport will be undergoing these upgrades, King-Hinds stated that they are not going to spend any money until they have something “concrete, something tangible” they can rely on. A study on all the challenges and types of infrastructure they need in order to pursue the goals that are awarded will take at least 18 months, she said.
King-Hinds stated that the Governor’s Office and CBMI Construction applied and was awarded a grant that will benefit CPA’s request to fund an Intermodal Study looking at their current infrastructure, their financial soundness and capabilities, and their future plans.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, King-Hinds stated that their revenue has gone down and CPA could not 100% fully support its operations. CPA has not furloughed staff, but has reduced hours to 64 hours in order to “stretch out the dollar.” This will allow CPA to have room with their finances and will be able to have enough money until the fiscal year ends, next year in October.
As for the planned divert airfield of the U.S. Air Force, engineering teams of the U.S. military are currently on Tinian and are laying the groundwork for the project, such as building barracks for future workers and clearing roads.