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Milwaukee airport seeing record traffic, but don’t grab your shovels just yet

By Joe Lanane

More passengers may not necessarily equal more money for construction projects at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

Mitchell airport has already exceeded expectations in 2010, needing only 10 months to reach a one-year record of 8,283,023 passengers. That gives Milwaukee the third-fastest growing airport in the world behind only Istanbul, Turkey, and Moscow, according to a news release from Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s office.

Barry Bateman, director of the airport, said he is cautiously optimistic Milwaukee can reach a milestone 10 million passengers by year’s end, but the data won’t be available until late January or early February.

Normally, that passenger boost would equal more federal money, Bateman said, but no such guarantee exists anymore. While Mitchell may make more money based on the federal formula that allots cash based on passengers per capita, Bateman said grants from the Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement program may be missing this year.

Even with longtime Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, expected to take over the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee, Bateman said there is no guarantee Milwaukee will be rewarded for its success.

“The mood has shifted and the days of budget increases at the federal level are gone,” Bateman said. “They’re going to flatten or cut budgets, but we’ll deal with it.”

General Mitchell has had previous success getting money from the FAA discretionary program, Bateman said, and that good fortune could carry over into next year.

But if it doesn’t, Bateman was not willing to speculate on what long-term projects might be reduced or delayed as a result.

Joe Lanane is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. He likes the fact there’s a used bookstore in the airport.

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