Jun 18 2008

Nearly $2 million grant to pay for runway work

Times Daily

By Russ Corey

A nearly $2 million grant has been awarded to the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport for runway rehabilitation.

Airport Director Matthew Hea said the airport applied for the grant a couple of years ago to rehabilitate the 4,000-foot "crosswind" or alternative runway. John Lehrter was director at the time of the grant application.

The total amount of the grant, which comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Federal Aviation Administration, is $1,899,720.

"There are basically four pieces to this project," Hea said.

The first part will involve removing the asphalt pad where Northwest Airlink parks its aircraft at the terminal and replacing it with a concrete pad.

Hea said the next part of the project will involve removing and rebuilding the shoulders of the runway.

While that is being done, Hea said a new runway lighting system will be installed.

Hea said the current runway lighting system is "antiquated" and is prone to short circuits, which causes the lighting system to occasionally go off. The new lighting system would be more energy efficient, Hea said.

On the runway itself, Hea said areas that contain cracks or holes will be ground down and repaved.

"The entire runway will be crack sealed," Hea said.

The grant will cover the majority of the project costs. The airport will be responsible for 2.5 percent of the cost. The low bid for the project is just more than $1.8 million, Hea said. Once he receives confirmation from the FAA, Hea will notify the low bidder and enter into a contract.

Laura Henderson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said the airport would be receiving notice of the grant's approval from the FAA shortly.

"A strong transportation infrastructure is critical to attracting new businesses and industry to the state of Alabama," Shelby said in a news release announcing the grant. "Our local airports serve as an important development tool for our state's rural communities."

Shelby is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.