AUBURN – Rick Cloutier’s No. 1 priority is about to land.

Cloutier, manager of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, said last year that construction of a taxiway parallel to Runway 4-22 headed his – and the airport’s – to-do list.

“If you look at our statistics, our operations at the airport are increasing dramatically – to the point we’re the third-busiest in the state,” Cloutier said last September. The airport needs the taxiway to keep up with that growth.

It’s one of the top recommendations in the airport’s master plan, which was finished and adopted by airport directors last July.

On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said the airport will receive $4,467,142 in grant money to help pay for the taxiway. The grant was announced by Maine’s Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Less than a week earlier, Snowe and Collins said the Auburn-Lewiston airport would get $211,250 in FAA grant money. That’s a separate grant. That money will be used to buy 25 acres of South Main Street, land that will be set aside for wetlands mitigation.

The mitigation will offset the filling of two acres of wetlands that will be disturbed by the airport expansion resulting from the addition of the taxiway. The land will be deeded to the Androscoggin Land Trust. The wetlands offset is a requirement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has to sign off on the project.

Cloutier said earlier this week that the wetlands grant was a part of the “bigger process” of building the taxiway.

Preliminary work on the taxiway has already started with an archeological survey.

Cloutier said last year that the taxiway will be built alongside the airport’s longest runway, aligned north to south. The taxiway will be used by aircraft that have just landed to make their way to hangars or fueling stations, and airplanes about to take off.

He said then that the taxiway is expected to cost a total of about $5.5 million.

He couldn’t be reached Thursday night for comment on the newest – and considerably larger – grant.