Runway project beginsCompletion expected at the end of August
Work began Wednesday on a project that has been about a decade in the making that will relocate a runway at the Washington Municipal Airport.
Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said that the beginning stages of the project are going on now. He said that the crews are running a couple of days behind schedule, but that topsoil has been removed and the crews are beginning to remove pavement. He said the 3,400-foot runway would be removed and rebuilt 750 feet to the northwest.
“The project has been in motion for the better part of a decade,” he said. “The runway was in a state that it needed to be replaced. Anything that applies to a street applies to a greater extent to an airport runway. Obviously you can’t have a runway that is full of potholes or a runway with a bad base to it, because that is a serious safety issue.”
The runway was over 50 years old, while most city streets are replaced after 30 years. According to a schedule Hinson provided, the project is expected to be complete toward the end of August.
The project to replace runway 13/31 with a runway farther away from Airport Road, which has been 10 years in the works, is expected to begin sometime this summer. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for 90 percent of the $2.2 million project. The runway will also be widened to meet FAA regulations. Earlier this year the FAA approved a $2 million grant for the project and the remainder was included in the city’s budget.
Hinson said for the FAA to help fund the project, either the runway or Airport Road would have had to be moved. In a previous interview, airport manager Mike Maxted said that he had received several reports from people driving along Airport Road, saying the planes were coming in too low and had “buzzed” them.
Airport Commission vice chair Mike Roe, who is in charge of the project, said that the project could not have been postponed much longer; in fact, it would have been best if it could have been done a few years earlier.
“It has been deteriorating for many years,” he said. “This last winter cycle has been particularly hard. It caused a lot of issues with the runway.”
Roe explained that the runway had been crumbling from the bottom side as well as having breaks in the surface. He said that driving his truck on the runway at 60 mph was hard, much less having a plane landing on it at 90 mph. He said if the project had not moved forward, the runway would have had to either be closed to air traffic or had expensive repair done to try to patch it.
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.
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.