Duluth International Airport will name its gleaming new airport terminal after the man who helped build it: the late Congressman Jim Oberstar.
The decision settles a friendly tug-of-war between Duluth and Hibbing over which of their brand-new terminals should be named in Oberstar's honor. Working with the Oberstar family, the airport authorities announced Friday that Duluth's terminal will bear the Oberstar name, while the Range Regional Airport -- the airport closest to his hometown of Chisholm -- will host a display celebrating the life and legacy of Minnesota's longest-serving congressman.
"Congressman Oberstar was a champion of aviation in our region," Duluth Airport Authority Executive Director Tom Werner said in a statement Friday. "It’s through his leadership and vision that we have such a vibrant aviation sector at the Duluth International Airport today.”
Oberstar, the longtime chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, steered millions of dollars for road, bridge, bike path and transit project back to his home state and his home district -- including crucial funding for the $78 million Duluth terminal project during his final years in Congress.
"Congressman Oberstar worked tirelessly to improve transportation infrastructure throughout our country," Peter Makowski, a former Oberstar aide, said in a statement Friday. "His goal was to improve the safety for everyone who used our highways, railroads, seaports and airports. He was very proud of his work in these critical areas and was particularly mindful of the projects in the Eighth Congressional District. It is fitting that the Duluth International Airport Terminal be named in his honor.”
Oberstar, who lost his bid for a 19th term in 2010, died in his sleep last May. He was 79.
In Hibbing, where the new terminal is still under construction, plans are underway for a display of photos and stories tracing Oberstar's life and his 36 years in Congress. Range Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Shaun Germolus said the two airports were never in competition for the name, but the fact that both sought naming rights was "a real testament to who he was and what he could accomplish."
Renaming the Duluth terminal will require additional private donations, which are being organized by the Monaco Air Foundation. The Oberstar family will work with city officials and community leaders to determine how the naming project will look, what it will cost and when it will be unveiled to the public. The renaming is expected to happen later in 2015.
The new passenger terminal at the Range Regional Airport, which is scheduled to open in December, will remain nameless.