Runway project estimates viewed

WINTERSVILLE – The Jefferson County Airport Authority got its first look at the engineer’s cost estimates for the planned $2 million runway extension project Monday.

Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile said Baker Engineering had worked up a series of estimates for them based on a range of upgrade scenarios.

“These are rough estimates, just based on the different scenarios on how we could approach this,” he said “The estimates didn’t necessarily come in high; it just depends on the engineering standard we want to apply.”

Projects involving federal money must adhere to a 20-year engineering standard. Because no federal money is currently involved in the project, the more stringent – and costly – standards don’t apply.

“It doesn’t mean we want it to be built to a lower standard, it just means they don’t have a say,” Gentile said. “It’s still a $2 million project, like it’s always been.”

The airport authority secured state funding to extend the runway to 5,000 feet, extend the taxiway by 1,200 feet and add a turnaround, all to accommodate the bigger jets now using the airport.

“We still believe we will be within budget on key components of what we want to do,” Gentile said. “But we did have to move away from widening the runway, we don’t have the money for it.”

He said pilots they’d talked to said much as they’d like to see the runway widened, making it longer was critical.

“We’ll eventually get there, but right now our goal is to get where we can be in compliance with the (runway length) the big jets need,” he said, pointing out that, two years ago, airport traffic didn’t justify the longer runway. The increased landings due to the shale oil and gas development, coupled with local investments, qualified the airport for the costly upgrade.

“The good news is we feel like we can cut back a little and still get what we want,” he said.

Monday’s meeting was the first for newly appointed members Geno Morelli and Geary Bates, chosen by the county commissioners to fill vacancies on the board.