Runway project set for fall start

Published on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 13:31 - Written by Kelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

A runway reconstruction project that is expected to begin this fall will allow Tyler Pounds Regional Airport to accommodate larger airplanes and more markets, Airport Manager Davis Dickson said.

The project is planned for Runway 4/22, one of the airport’s three runways, and will be done in multiple phases.

Dickson said portions of Runway 4/22 were built in the 1940s, so this project not only brings the runway up to the newest standards but also increases the weight-bearing capacity of the pavement to allow for larger aircrafts to use it.

“I think that’s a big advantage for us and plus it’ll be concrete ... and it’ll last for a generation,” he said.

And Dickson said once the project is complete, it enables the airport to expand its offerings for future needs.

“It can open us up for the future with larger airplanes and more markets. At least it gives the airport that capability,” he said.

Dickson said the airport has applied for Federal Aviation Administration grant funds to cover project-related costs.

He said the grant monies would fund several projects within the Runway 4/22 reconstruction project, such as construction administration costs, testing that would be required for the construction and then the actual construction contract itself for Phase 1. Construction of Phase 1 is projected to cost at least about $8.6 million, with funding to come primarily from the FAA, along with some funding from half-cent sales tax revenue.

Dickson anticipates that the airport will receive a grant offer sometime in early to mid- September, and construction could start sometime in October or November.

In the meantime, Dickson said, the airport is notifying users about the impact that the project will have on them.

He said that although Runway 4/22 won’t be in use at some point for a number of months, the airport’s other two runways will be open during construction.

The airport also has ensured that the commercial airlines know that the airport has two other runways that will be in operation and that they can plan accordingly with certain training for short landings and takeoffs, he said.

But overall Dickson does not anticipate that there will be a significant impact, or that there will be less arrivals and departures at Tyler Pounds while construction takes place.

He said at that one point during construction, the airport might close two runways simultaneously to work through an intersection, leaving only one runway open, but the airport wants to be very strategic with that and communicate well in advance as it has done with the airlines and users about the Runway 4/22 reconstruction project.

“We’re very fortunate. Here at Tyler we’ve got three runways, so we can use the others during this interim period,” Dickson said.

“Anytime you close a runway, it changes operations because every runway is an integral part of your operation. But I think the changes will be good, and the main thing is we’re closing the runway to make improvements under our control, and if we don’t do something proactive the runway could go in real disrepair and then it would be out of our control. We want to maintain control of the conditions of our airfield and this is a very positive project.”

He expects Phase 1 to take more than a year to complete, and when it comes to a projected timeline for Phase 2, he said it depends on the timing of FAA funds.

He said his goal is to be aggressive in getting those funds so that the project will have minimal impact.

He said he has been aggressive with the FAA to get Phase 2 funding so that the airport can do phases simultaneously and shorten the whole project time span.

Aside from the planned reconstruction project, parking fee increases are proposed for the airport.

The hourly rate for short-term parking would still be $1, but the short-term daily rate would go from $8 to $10. The hourly rate for long-term parking would go from 75 cents to $1, while the long-term daily parking rate would go from $5 to $6.

Dickson said the parking fee changes, which would help fund new parking lot equipment and improvements to the airport’s departure lounge, would likely take effect 30 days after the city council adopts the budget for next fiscal year. The budget is scheduled for adoption on Sept. 24. There are two public hearings beforehand — one on Aug. 27 and another on Sept. 10.