$2 million approved for runway
Over 10 years of work to replace aging runway 1331 at the Washington Municipal Airport ended this morning when the Airport Commission received word that a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation had been awarded.
Mike Roe, chairman of the Airport Commission, said that the grant had been held up due to the congressional sequester, and with cuts to transportation money, he was unsure if the city was going to get the grant. This morning, he learned in an e-mail that the money was coming.
“The last we heard from construction is they wanted to get started almost immediately,” Roe said. “As soon as we can get done with the paperwork — hopefully in a couple of weeks — we can begin construction.”
Roe said that the estimates for the project would have been about $3 million. He said the bids had come in at about $2.2 million. He said that the remainder of the money for the project is in the city’s budget for this year. He believes the local cost for the project will be between $130,000 and $220,000.
The runway has been in about 50 years. Roe said that the concrete in the runway is reaching the end of its useful life and is breaking up. He believes if it were not replaced, the runway would have to be closed to air traffic in about two years.
The push to replace the runway really began about 10 years ago, Roe said, although an airport layout plan had come out discussing the replacement of the runway earlier.
While attempting to purchase the land, the commission had to ask the city to use eminent domain to acquire the land to the northwest of the airport in order to get the federal money. Roe said the federal government would not have invested in the project unless it met current safety standards. One of the safety standards the Airport Commission wanted to make was to move the runway about 700 feet to the northwest, away from Airport Road.
“If you go to the touchdown zone, you are maybe 50 or 75 feet above the cars,” he said. “That’s too close.”
The sequester, Roe said, had taken about $84 million from aviation capital improvement programs and left about $28 million. He said that he had been concerned the project had been put on hold until funding was reinstated. On Monday of this week, Roe learned that the city was still in the running, but was not sure if the airport would receive the money.
Roe said the Department of Transportation would send the airport a grant application for the money, which airport officials will fill out. Bids for construction will be accepted. Money will be sent according to the bids. He predicts the new runway will be good for another 50 years.
The new runway will be 10 feet wider than the existing runway. It is about 3,700 feet long and will be used by most forms of general aviation traffic, including some jets.
There had been questions about the new runway requiring planes to take off in the direction of Washington County Hospital. Roe said after takeoff, pilots turn their planes to either the right or left. He also said the planes have had the opportunity to gain altitude. He said the end of the new runway would be about three-fourths of a mile from the hospital.
Recently, Roe said, the commission had used about $27,000 of the airport’s general fund to seal Runway 1836 to extend the life of the runway further after receiving a $40,000 state grant to assist with the project.