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Commissioners take first step to get airport runway extended

March 03, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday took the first step toward extending the runway at the Hagerstown Regional Airport, asking the airport manager to begin gathering information needed to get federal grants for the proposed project.

The vote followed a presentation by a Federal Aviation Administration employee, who said it usually takes eight to 10 years to get a runway extended, assuming all FAA requirements are met.

Construction usually takes about five years, said Terry Page, an FAA engineer.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook estimated the total cost of extending the 5,450-foot runway to 7,000 feet would be $25 million to $40 million. The amount is high because a runway extension would cross U.S. 11.

The commissioners told Airport Manager Carolyn Motz to begin gathering information which Page said was needed, including an estimate of the total project cost, development of a time frame and identification of funding sources.

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While the county has considered a runway extension a long-term goal, the issue became more immediate when Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Hagerstown Committee leaders lobbied the local delegation of the Maryland General Assembly to support the idea.

Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and Bert L. Iseminger have said they support a runway extension, which they hope would be funded mostly through FAA funds, with the county paying 5 percent of the cost. The other three commissioners have been non-committal.

Page said the most the county should expect from the FAA for planning for the project is $10 million to $15 million.

Page said the county will need to have several studies done in order to get money from the FAA for runway construction but some of the work could possibly be done in-house.

The first step in the process is to show why federal money for an extension is justified, Page said. It usually takes about six months to gather that information, he said.

The commissioners have not voted to spend money on studies. Motz probably has enough available information about the airport and future community needs that she can do the report without outside help, Iseminger said.

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