WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Barkley Regional Airport has a $43 million economic impact on our region, but it's 65 years old and is in desperate need of a new terminal. The Airport Authority and elected officials hope the federal government will provide money towards that effort.

A group of local leaders are in Washington, D.C. this week for the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's D.C. fly-in. One of their priorities is to secure funding for projects like the new terminal.

It is not clearer Thursday night whether the airport will get those funds, but it is clear that the Airport Authority and others are on the right track. Earlier Thursday at the Department of Transportation, there was talk of that terminal project. 

It's not every day you meet Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and it's not every day you're in need of federal money to help build a new terminal at Barkley Regional Airport. 

"We have to be in front of the decision makers. We need the relationships. Ultimately, all of this is about relationships, and we need them to see our faces, and to know our names, and to know why we care so much about our community," Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless said. 

Building a new terminal to replace Barkley Regional's antiquated one is a long-term project that's only in the design and engineering phase at this point.

In a one-on-one with the secretary, she said the planned improvements are on the DOT's radar. "As we go forward for new and additional needs for the airport, we want to be helpful," she said. "I can't promise anything right now, but I can say for the first time in a long time Paducah's going to have a fair shot."

A fair shot and improved odds after meetings and relationship building like this.

The path to a new terminal is a long and multi-leveled process. The total cost of the project will be determined when design work is completed.

The DOT does continue to provide Barkley Regional Airport with Essential Air Service funding — a government subsidy. The airport also continues to receive Airport Improvement Program grants.