San Gabriel Valley Airport to get $6 million for a host of improvements

EL MONTE >> The San Gabriel Valley Airport may soon get a major upgrade after being selected earlier this week to receive $6 million in federal funds to repave a significant portion of the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday the recipients of $185.8 million in total grant funding to pay for airport infrastructure projects, such as runways, taxiways, signage and lighting. Of that amount, $6 million will go toward repaving the San Gabriel Valley Airport’s aircraft parking areas, according to the FAA.

What the FAA’s description doesn’t say, said airport manager Enrique Curioso, is that the “aircraft parking areas” descriptor means almost all paved surfaces at the airport between the taxiway, runway, building and hangars, which represents a significant proportion of all paved surfaces.

Curioso is employed by American Airports Corp. Los Angeles County owns the airport, but it contracts with American Airports to operate the airport.

Representatives for the county did not respond to requests for comment by Friday afternoon.

“The Airport Improvement Program helps to maintain our aviation infrastructure and supports safety, capacity, security and environmental improvements,” U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement. “This is an important investment in San Gabriel Valley’s air service and in the economic vitality of the region.”

Construction is set to begin within 60 days, Curioso said, and should take about 10 months to complete, Curioso said.

The airport has been in need of repaving for upwards of 15 years, said longtime pilot Gabe Lopez. The Arcadia resident has been flying out of the San Gabriel Valley Airport, formerly known as the El Monte Airport, since he was 4 years old in 1963 when his father, a World War II fighter pilot, would take his son up with him.

These days, Lopez flies a 1940 Stearman Biplane out of the airport once a week. And while he said airport management has done a good job patching cracks in the pavement, it’s high time for a complete repavement.

“You can only patch for so long,” Lopez said. “They finally got the money to do it, and it’s a well-needed and welcomed project.”

Lopez was quick to point out that none of the five county-owned airports, including San Gabriel Valley, receives taxpayer funding, so finding money for major repairs is often a challenge.


Curioso said that in addition to improving quality of life for pilots flying out of the airport, the repavement project would allow the airport to add an improved drainage system. The drains will prevent the airfield from flooding, as they did during last year’s heavy rains, and connect to the county storm drain system.

Despite the current, cracked-and-repaired state of the airfield, nearby resident Bill Barth said he’s never seen loose bits of asphalt blown by aircraft onto his property. Barth, a former pilot himself, lives on Basye Street across the street from the airport and said the airport almost never disturbs his home in any way.

“I have more of a problem with people driving by kicking up rocks than anything coming from the airport,” Barth said with a laugh.


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