PANAMA CITY, FL-The Panama City–Bay County International Airport Authority and Industrial District has secured $312 million in financing for the construction of the new airport in western Bay County.

With the financing, the Airport Authority has all the permits, approvals and financing to begin construction. However, a temporary stay halting construction was recently issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court in New York at the request of Friends of PFN, a recreational pilots group that opposes the relocation of the airport. In response, the Airport Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration filed emergency motions earlier this week asking the court to vacate the stay or hold a hearing on the merits of the case. Phoenix Construction is the general contractor on the project.

“In considering the relocation of our over airport over the past 10 years, hundreds of public meetings have been held, and the Airport Authority has received 18 approvals and permits and coordinated input from 22 federal, state and local agencies,” says Airport Authority vice chairman Bill Cramer, in a prepared statement. “We believe the tremendous regional transportation, economic and environmental benefits resulting from the relocation far outweigh the claims of our opponents. This delay is like grounding the space shuttle at T minus five seconds.”

In completing its financial package for relocation, the Airport Authority has received payment of $56.5 million in escrow for the sale of the current airport site to a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corp. In addition to the sale, the transaction calls for transfer fees over a 90-year period from the sale of future properties developed on the site. The current airport is located on 700 acres adjacent to North Bay in Panama City.

The State of Florida has contributed approximately $70 million to the project. In May, the Florida Department of Transportation issued grants totaling approximately $67 million for construction.

The airport is being built on a 4,000-acre site donated to the Airport Authority by Jacksonville-based the St. Joe Co. This will be the first airport built in the US since Sept. 11, 2001. It will replace an existing airport, built in 1948, that is constrained by residential and business development and North Bay.

It is being constructed in five phases. The first phase of the project, which is expected to last 30 months and open in early 2010, will be located on 1,400 of the 4,000 acres. It will consist of a primary runway that is 8,400 by 150 feet, a crosswind runway that is 5,000 by 100 feet and a 105,000-sf terminal with seven gates. The project also consists of smaller buildings to house the control towers, fire stations and other uses.

Relocation of the airport also triggers the creation of the West Bay Preservation Area, a 41,000-acre conservation area designed to permanently protect West Bay, one of the most environmentally diverse ecosystems in the world. The preservation area will protect 44 miles of undeveloped shoreline and an additional 33 miles of creeks and tributaries.

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