Millions of dollars for police officers, schools, roads, bridges -- no one's going to argue with most of these federally funded stimulus projects. In tough times, people want cops, teachers, and construction crews to stay on the job and pump money back into our battered economy. But the Boca Raton Airport? That's kind of like buying Miley Cyrus a new Hummer and hoping the rest of us get rich pumping gas.
The tiny, single-runway airport caters exclusively to private planes and corporate jets. Yet it's the proud recipient of at least $3.5 million in stimulus funds. Airport officials are using the money to rehab that one lonely runway, build a new road, and do some security upgrades. "It's just, you know, the typical maintenance that needs to be done," says Kim Singer, public affairs director for the airport.
Pretty sweet deal for a pint-sized airport, isn't it? And Boca's not alone in this windfall.
A recent report by the nonprofit investigative journalism shop ProPublica found that tiny airports around the country are raking in the stimulus bucks. Thanks to quirks in the federal rules for receiving money, a remote village on an island in Alaska is slated to receive $15 million for a new airport, according to the report.
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The biggest winners aren't the busiest airports. And more than $100 million is going to airports that have fewer than one flight an hour -- airports that cater to recreational fliers, corporate jets or remote communities.
The Alaskan villages of Ouzinkie, Akiachak and Fort Yukon are each getting the maximum $15 million stimulus grant. Other winners include an airport owned by a private flying club, one used mostly by Purdue University and a landing strip on an American Indian reservation that has roughly one flight every two days.
By contrast, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport -- the busiest in the world -- hasn't received any stimulus money from the FAA. Neither have hubs in Newark and Las Vegas.
To be fair, a local firm is going to reap some of the benefits of Boca's windfall. Singer says Hardrives Inc. of Delray Beach will be the construction contractor on the runway project.
Plus, other South Florida airports are slated to get stimulus money too. According to ProPublica, Palm Beach International's getting $3.9 million, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood will get $7 million, and Miami-International a whopping $8 million.
But of course, those airports run commercial flights. Boca's the only local runway that caters exclusively to the rich and still gets a nice makeover courtesy of you, dear taxpayer, and your precious stimulus funds.