Airport runway project ready to move forward

WINTERSVILLE – The Jefferson County Airport Authority is ready to proceed with earthwork for its runway extension just as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration gives it the go-ahead to proceed.

Under the revised plans, the runway will be widened to 75 feet at the same time it’s extended to 5,000 feet. They’d initially planned to extend the runway by 500 feet, but figured to maintain the width at 60 feet and extend the taxiway to the full 5,000 feet.

The FAA, however, had pointed out last week that the standard for airports in the B-II classification is 75 feet wide. The government also wants a completed environmental assessment. While that work has been done, the final environmental report hadn’t been submitted because the firm doing the work needs a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it can turn it in.

Rather than build a taxiway, the plans now incorporate a turnaround cul-de-sac, or “stub,” that in the short-term will allow pilots to turn their planes around more easily. When funding becomes available, they’ll be in position to develop an extended taxiway.

“All we’re trying to do is get wider pavement to make it easier for aircraft to turn,” engineering consultant Brad Homan of Michael Baker Jr. Inc., said during a special airpark authority meeting Tuesday, adding that by his calculations it would take up to 55 calendar days to do the earthwork and another 16 for paving and marking.

“If (FAA) issues notice to proceed on Aug. 1, (the work) could be done Nov. 18. And I’m also thinking conservatively, we could always back that up.”

Despite the revision, the board was advised that they don’t need to rebid that part of the project because there’s been less than a 10 percent overall change.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the authority voted unanimously to recommend that the earthwork bid be awarded to Canonsburg-based Caston Baker immediately upon receipt of the FAA’s notice to proceed. The firm bid $747,975.

Authority members, however, also recommended that the county commissioners rebid the paving and electrical work to reflect significant changes in the scope of the work. Revising the paving bid will be easy, but Commissioner Tom Gentile told the board they need extra time to prepare specifications for the electrical side of the project. The earthwork must be done first, so Gentile said they have some wiggle room in advertising and awarding the contracts.

It will be more cost-effective to advertise the two contracts at the same time, they said.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile told the board the earliest the revised paving and electrical bids could be awarded is likely at least a month away.