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Associated Press, Published September 19 2013

North Dakota airports have busiest August ever

BISMARCK — Business continues to boom at the eight large airports in North Dakota, and the state Aeronautics Commission is looking for Federal Aviation Administration help with projects to keep up with the increasing pace of plane boardings.

North Dakota airports had their busiest August ever, with nearly 98,000 people boarding planes in the state's eight largest cities, up more than 10 percent over the year.

"We now have three airports which have terminals that are operating at three times their designed capacity," state Aeronautics Commissioner Larry Taborsky said in a statement. "This sustained growth began prior to 2010 and is projected to continue. We're asking the FAA to consider the North Dakota airport projects as a high priority."

Airports in the western oil patch cities of Dickinson and Williston and in Minot, which is on the fringe of the oil fields, are now operating over capacity. Airports in the east also are seeing more activity — both the Fargo and Grand Forks airports had record boardings last month. Officials cite the state's good economy and additional jet service for the dramatic increase in boardings in recent years.

"It's not just the energy, but it's the healthy economy across the state," Joshua Simmers, projects manager at the Aeronautics Commission, told the Minot Daily News. "We suspect that it's a balance of North Dakotans getting out and doing more things, but also the increased population and workforce coming in."

In Dickinson and Williston, modular buildings are being used as temporary holding rooms after passengers have passed through security.

"This is the first year they (Dickinson and Williston) have had jet service, and they were not expected to have it for quite a while," Kyle Wanner, airport planner for the Aeronautics Commission, told The Bismarck Tribune. "We haven't built to handle the need we're all of a sudden seeing."

Several airports in North Dakota have received federal grant money this year for improvement projects. The state Legislature earlier this year also approved $60 million for airports over the two-year budget period to help deal with growth. About $28 million has been doled out so far.