The Marana Regional Airport was awarded $375,000 in grant funding from the Arizona Department of Transportation,

The Marana Regional Airport was awarded $375,000 in grant funding from the Arizona Department of Transportation, which officials said will be used to make much-needed safety improvements, including the design of new runway lights and a rotating beacon tower.

Funds for the work come from $10 million in funds appropriated by the Legislature this session, officials said. ADOT will contribute 90% of the money in three grants, while Marana will contribute a 10% match.

The bulk of the funds, $175,000, will be used to design lights for both runways, the tower and upgrade precision approach path indicator equipment both runways, all of which are more than 20 years old.

Airport director Steve Miller said the new technology will “be more efficient and more reliable.” They’ll seek more grants to fund the actual construction of the project, estimated to cost $1.67 million. The hope is to finish the design this year, and installation next year, he said.

The rest of the grant money will be used to replace electrical equipment, $50,000, and fund a study, $150,000, to look at the runway safety. Officials said the end of Runway 30 is too close to Avra Valley Road and the fence line.

The Marana Airport manages roughly 90,000 flights a year, including military flights from Pinal County, flight training from Phoenix and corporate jets.

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Miller said the airport has a “lot of potential.” His short-term goal is earn a commercial designation so they can accept chartered flights on a commercial basis. That requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the construction of an on-site fire station.

Long-term, Miller doesn’t see the airport as becoming a competitor to Tucson International Airport, as he said the metro size doesn’t warrant a second airport. But he isn’t ruling it out.

“Never say never,” he said.

Contact reporter Justin Sayers at jsayers1@tucson.com or 573-4192. Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Facebook: JustinSSayers

Reporter

Justin, a UA graduate, covers local government, focusing on Marana, Oro Valley and the Arizona Board of Regents. He previously worked at the Louisville Courier Journal, Arizona Republic and Hartford Courant and has received multiple awards.