U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited St. Croix today to announce a $300,000 grant to help attract new air service to the U.S. mainland. He was joined by Governor John de Jongh, Congresswoman Donna Christensen and local officials.
The grant will offer a range of financial incentives to encourage an airline to begin new low-fare service to New York or other key destinations on the U.S. mainland. Local public and private sector partners will contribute an additional $100,000 to the project.
"This grant will help St. Croix improve its air service to the mainland, making it a more attractive destination for travelers and boosting the local economy," Secretary LaHood said during a visit to the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix. "We are committed to working with public and private partners in St. Croix to find local solutions to make this project a success."
St. Croix is one of 33 communities across the country receiving a total of $13.9 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP), which helps small communities develop their own solutions to local air service needs.
St. Croix has high airfares in comparison with other airports in the Caribbean region and lacks sufficient air service to meet current demand. For the past two decades, averages fares to and from St. Croix have been higher than those at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico, or U.S. domestic routes as a whole. In addition, St. Croix is home to a number of businesses whose employees are not well-served by schedules primarily designed for tourists. The community received a $150,000 SCASDP grant in 2007 to conduct an air service study for the airport, which supported the need for additional inter-island and mainland service.
The grant program began in 2002 to help small communities address the challenges of local air service, such as high fares, insufficient levels of service, and lack of competition. Since then, SCASDP awards have helped more than 300 communities develop projects tailored to their own air service needs, such as providing financial incentives to carriers, conducting studies on the possibilities of expanded service, and carrying out marketing programs to promote existing local service.
Nearly all of the 2012 grant recipients have made financial commitments toward their grant projects, and most recipients have teamed with local government and the business community to address their local air service needs.
Complete community proposals and the Department's selection order are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0069. A list of recipient communities and funding totals is available at http://www.dot.gov/affairs/2012/SCASDP.html.