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Airport lands large grant for runway work

Jennifer Sprouse • Sep 28, 2012 at 10:26 PM

BLOUNTVILLE –– Tri-Cities Regional Airport announced Friday that it received a $15 million grant for a rehabilitation project on its primary runway 5-23.

The runway project will include milling and overlaying of new asphalt on the 8,000-foot runway, installation of new in-pavement lighting systems and installation of improved drainage systems at the edges of the runway, according to TCRA Executive Director Patrick Wilson.

“It’s a project that’s been in the works ... for about two years and we started working with the (Federal Aviation Administration) to apply for the grant about a year ago,” Wilson said. “We’re fortunate to be able to get a large enough grant to do the entire runway project. This will be a rehabilitation of the airport’s primary runway, the longest of our two runways and it is runway that is used by the air carriers.”

The grant is from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, which is funded by user fees from the National Airport System, according to a TCRA news release.

Wilson said this project is the largest project the airport has ever done, as well as the largest grant the facility ever received.

According to the release, the grant includes $14.22 million from federal funds and matching funds of $790,000 each from state and airport funds.

He said the runway, which is 8,000-feet long and 150-feet wide, has not seen a rehabilitation effort like this one in more than 20 years and the project is more about being proactive in the care of the runway, so it will withstand many more years of use.

“We’ve gotten a lot of life out of it and it’s still in fair shape now, but we just want to make sure that we’re doing this grant before we get into a situation where the pavement is significantly deteriorated,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be some headaches while we work on it because it is the only large primary commercial service runway we have, we have to do a lot of the work during about a five-hour night window we have from the last commercial arrival until the first departure of the morning.”

He said the airport will experience a lot of nighttime work over the next year and that in mid-September 2013, the airport will close for two back-to-back weekends. Wilson said some travel will be interrupted, but said the project’s completion will add to the runway’s life.

“Once it is finished ... that puts us in pretty good shape for the next 25-30 years after this project,” he said.

With the project having been in the works for about two years, Wilson said they had people bid on the runway rehabilitation job, with local company Summers-Taylor announced as the bid winner.

“We’ve been able to work with Summers-Taylor to do several projects in the past and they always do an exceptionally good job for us, so we’re glad to be working with them on such an important project as this one,” he said.

The runway rehabilitation project should take 18 months to complete.

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