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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 17, 1999 – Saipan Tribune/Abridged)---The Federal Aviation Administration has granted $9.3 million in assistance for the construction of a new runway on the island municipality of Tinian.

Executive Director of the Commonwealth Ports Authority Carlos H. Salas said this brings to $12.8 million the total amount of money now available for the project.

"We are very appreciative of their assistance and, perhaps, additional funds may become available in the near future," said Salas.

CPA management and consultants are now developing draft bid documents for the project, which are expected to be released by the end of the year.

The FAA has approved the construction of a new runway measuring about 7,800 feet in length, allowing all wide-body commercial aircraft to land except the B-747.

The original plan was to build an 8,600-foot runway, which would have accommodated B-747s on Tinian.

Construction of the new runway on 8th Avenue is expected to be completed in three years.

The FAA earlier rejected a proposal by the Tinian Legislative Delegation to extend the existing runway, instead of developing a new one, because it would have encroached on Broadway Avenue and would not have meet a 1,000-foot safety area requirement.

The FAA advised the Ports Authority to remain with the original plan and reduce the runway to 7,800 feet.

Due to the urgency of improving the existing airport facilities, the Tinian Delegation approved the transfer of over $3 million from the Covenant 702 Capital Improvement Project funds originally allotted for the Tinian Civic Center.

The Tinian Delegation has emphasized that development of the Tinian Dynasty & Casino hinges on the capability of the existing West Tinian Airport to accommodate bigger aircraft and bring in larger numbers of visitors through direct flights from Asia to the island.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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