COLUMBIA — A runway expansion project at Columbia Regional Airport would better serve planes that already use the airport and help attract larger planes from more airlines, Airport Manager Andrew Schneider said.
The Columbia City Council on Monday approved an agreement with Kansas City engineering firm Burns & McDonnell to provide engineering services for runway expansion and other projects at the airport for the next five years.
Each of the projects would be presented to the City Council as they come along. The city has the right to hire other firms to conduct selected projects, as well, Public Works Director John Glascock said at the council meeting.
Repairing and expanding the airport's two runways will cost an estimated $26 million of about $34 million in projects, according to a notice to airport consultants. The rest of the money would go to expanding the apron and taxiways and other projects. Schneider said the primary runway would be lengthened from 6,500 feet to 7,000 feet. A second runway would be lengthened from 4,400 feet to 5,500 feet and widened from 75 feet to 100 feet. The primary runway will stay at 150 feet wide.
The primary reason to extend the runways is to make the airport safer and more versatile for planes to land, Schneider said. By widening the second runway, a 50-seat regional jet(the carrier type serving Columbia through Delta Air Lines), will be able to land on both runways, he said.
According to Schneider, on some occasions that carrier type was not able to land on the primary runway because of strong winds; the planes had to divert to nearby airports. Making the second runway available would solve such problems, he said.
Proposals have already been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for reviews of the projects. If approved, 95 percent of the costs would be covered by federal money and the rest would come from the city, according to FAA regulations.
Schneider said extensions of the runways would also give the airport the ability to serve bigger aircraft.
"Expanding the airfield would allow Delta to bring in larger airplanes if they need to," Schneider said.
The city has also considered bringing other airlines to the airport if Columbia keeps growing and demand warrants the addition, Schneider said. AllegiantAir is one of them. Allegiant has larger planes than the airport could accommodate at this time, Schneider said. After the expansion, Allegiant would consider using the larger aircrafts at the airport, he said.
Work could begin as early as this summer to install a new lighting system at the current taxiways, which connect runways with terminals, aprons and other facilities. Environmental work before acquiring land for the extension of runways could also begin, Schneider said.
Most of the projects are reconstruction work and maintenance, as the facilities at the airport are aging, according to Schneider.
“They are in poor condition and need to be updated,” he said.
There will be minimal impact on the commercial operation of the airport, and there will always be one runway open, Schneider said.
The benefit of a five-year contract instead of multiple contracts with different firms is reduced costs and lag time between contracting individual firms, according to Schneider.
"It's not only convenient but also saves us a lot of money. … It insists in keeping the projects moving forward,” Schneider said.