Congressman Joe Barton was nothing but pleased with what he saw and heard Wednesday afternoon during a meeting at Mid-Way Regional Airport with airport staff and board members as well as city officials from Waxahachie and Midlothian.

“It’s noticeable that a lot of positive things are happening here,” Barton said during a roundtable discussion that included airport director Cam Fearis’ update on the facility.

“We’re excited about where the airport is going and Congressman Barton’s been an important part of that growth,” Fearis said.

Discussing the upcoming runway extension, Fearis said land acquisition is under way and expected to be completed by the summer 2008.

“Once the property is purchased, we’ll begin construction immediately,” Fearis said of the $8 million, 420-day project that will see the runway extended to 6,500 feet.

Expectations are that traffic at the airport will only increase with the runway extension due to the larger airplanes that will then be able to land. More than 60 people are employed now amongst the different businesses at the facility, which has space for about 85 planes and another hangar under construction. For the most part, the aircraft belong to private owners who use them for business purposes, with the remaining planes belonging to commercial businesses such as Aircraft Imaging, which has four planes at Mid-Way.

At any given time, the airport has a waiting list of from 20 to 25 airplanes wanting a spot, Fearis said, noting, “We’re on a growth path that’s neither too fast nor too slow.”

The airport sits on 240 acres, with Fearis saying growth and user demands could see the facility increase its size to 300-plus acres.

Fortunately, he noted, “The cities have done a good job of protecting our boundaries via zoning (to prevent residential encroachment).”

Among future plans, Fearis said the airport is considering a jointly-funded project with TxDOT to construct a new terminal as well as a potential site for more hangars.

Providing an update to the group on pending legislation in Congress, Barton said he expects an FAA funding bill to be passed.

“I think the version the president ends up signing will be closer to the House (of Representatives) version,” he said, saying he thinks the final bill will include some increase in the general aviation tax, gas and jet fuel taxes and passenger tax.

Those revenues are needed for improvements with the aviation industry, Barton said, noting that air travel “is a hassle now” for passengers and citing other issues such as security demands and the large number of air traffic controllers nearing retirement.

“We need to put money into aviation,” he said.

Saying that Mid-Way is an airport “both communities can be proud of,” Barton again complimented the cities, board members and staff on their cooperative efforts.

“This is a great airport,” he said, adding, “This truly is an economic generator and a real representation of a vision from about 15 to 20 years ago.”

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com