City, FAA are upgrading landing strips

Published on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 22:48 - Written by FAITH HARPER, fharper@tylerpaper.com

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Concrete flowed this week as crews worked on the first part of a project to reconfigure a runway at Tyler Regional Pounds Airport.

The city is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade runway 4-22, the longest of three runways at Tyler Pounds.

The strip is 7,800 linear feet long and 150-feet wide. Tyler Pounds is proposing to extend the runway to 8,350 feet. The work also will upgrade instrumentation to accommodate landings by larger planes.

The entire project is projected to cost between $42 and $48 million.

Crews are working on the first of five sections of work. As the concrete sets, officials are prepping in anticipation of more grant money to complete the second leg of the project.

If the grant is approved, the two sections will be constructed simultaneously, but the first section is behind schedule, because of the record rains in the spring.

The facility is poised to receive its largest grant in 20 years to continue work on the project’s second phase.

The facility applied for a $9.8 million grant from the FAA. If approved, the grant would pay for 90 percent of the $10.4 million second piece of the reconfiguration, with a local match of about $1 million coming from half-cent sales tax funds.

Airport Manager Davis Dickson said portions of the runway were installed just after World War II, and the upgrades would allow larger aircraft to regularly land at the airport. He said the upgrades would open the potential for the planes used by Southwest Airlines to fly in, if the company opted to carry service to Tyler.

“To me, (the runway extension) represents a multigenerational project,” Davis said. “It could last 50 to 70 years. Part of what we are reconstructing was built after WWII, and that spans well over a generation right there. This could be the very same thing.”

The FAA has not approved the funds for the second portion, but Tyler Pounds is making every preparation to begin the work as if the funding were finalized. Tyler officials will know in August or September if the grant is approved.

Davis said the city and the federal agency have worked closely together on the construction plans, and because the project has started, it likely will be granted the funding to finish.

The work has already been bided out and tentatively awarded. The city also selected a firm to do pre-construction analysis on the materials that will be used. The projects also already is on the prioritized list of potential half-cent projects.

On Monday, the city’s Airport Advisory Board approved making a recommendation to City Council to approve a resolution accepting the tentative grant and authorizing the payment of the local match.

Dickson said having the paperwork ready will enable the city to get started on the second piece of the project as soon as possible. It also will potentially make the city’s application more attractive to the FAA, if there’s a funding shortfall or competition for grant dollars.

“I hope it will be a positive factor for us — having things done on time as far as being ready for the grant application, submitting it, being able to execute those contracts,” Dickson said. “Starting the money flowing into the improvements is what FAA expects. They won’t like to award a grant and it not be put to work (immediately).”

Davis said the upgraded runway also has potential to bring more commerce to the county.

Twitter: @TMTFaith