PROVO — Citing safety issues and economic benefits, the Utah County Commission approved $500,000 in funding Tuesday for a radar at the Provo Municipal Airport.

Utah County Commission unanimously voted to appropriate the $500,000 from the county's tourism, recreation, culture and convention tax to pay their agreed portion for an Air Traffic Control Beacon Interrogator Model 6 secondary surveillance radar system. Provo airport director Steve Gleason said the city isn't the only one that will benefit from the radar.

"We're really excited that (the Utah County commissioners) see the value in the system," he said. "It's really going to be a great benefit to Utah County."

Currently, Utah Valley lies in a blind spot, and planes taking off from the airport in Provo are undetectable by Salt Lake International Airport's radar system until they hit 9,000 feet. Provo air traffic control relies on binoculars and chalk boards to track planes, often waiting until they have a 20-mile gap in air traffic before giving clearance for departures.

Utah County Commissioner Steve White said he can't think of any other similar-size community in the nation that doesn't have scheduled air service at its airport.

"Until we get rid of the blind spot ... here locally, we cannot have scheduled air service," he said.

Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson said a number of local companies look forward to having commercial airline services improved.

Ellertson also said a radar will improve safety for people currently using the airport, and it will provide a secondary backup system for the Salt Lake International Airport.

The ATCBI-6 will be able to pinpoint a plane's location, altitude and velocity, depending upon the type of transponder the plane carries. The radar project is anticipated to cost between $4 and $5 million. The Federal Aviation Administration has agreed to split costs with Provo, and it also promised to cover the estimated $100,000 in annual operations and maintenance.

Provo received $1 million in one-time money for the radar from the Utah Legislature in 2007. The Provo City Council approved an appropriation of $500,000 for the radar, and Utah County approved funding for the final $500,000.

Provo spokeswoman Helen Anderson said the city appreciates Utah County's support in the radar project.

"Without it, we would not be able to take advantage of the FAA's offer," she said.

Last week, the Provo City Council authorized Mayor Lewis Billings to enter into a contract with the FAA to outfit the airport with the ATCBI-6. Now that Utah County has chipped in its portion, Anderson said, Billings will sign the contract when he returns to Provo Thursday from the American Public Power Association conference in New Orleans.

Once the county transfers the funds to the FAA, construction will begin on the radar, Anderson said. They expect the project to be completed within three years and possibly as early as 2010.

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