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ASHEVILLE -- The Asheville Regional Airport will get $6.5 million from the federal government to help pay for a new runway and west-side taxiway, according to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows.

The Glenville Republican announced the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday. Meadows serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.

"This will make it possible for the airport to upgrade its runway and continue to serve the citizens of Western North Carolina," he said in a statement. "Having a modernized transportation hub that supports our business community is critical for economic growth in the area."

The money will be used for the first phase of a 4-year project that will cost $64 million, said Lew Bleiweis, executive director of Asheville Regional Airport, in the statement from Meadows' office.

"This project will be the biggest in the airport's history since the airport was built, and is a big part of the future of our region's airport," he said.

Bleiweis said 100 percent of the costs will be covered by FAA, the state Department of Transportation and airport funds intended for infrastructure improvement.

The current runway is more than 50 years old and has been resurfaced numerous times. The FAA has prioritized the construction of a new runway to bring the airfield up to current standards.

An official groundbreaking is slated for Aug. 8, Meadows office said. More details about the project will be available then.

The airport saw 678,023 passengers on commercial flights in 2013, up from 633,023 in 2012. Last year's figure was below a recent peak of 735,760 in 2010.

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