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Feds won't commit to runway funds

September 12, 2000

Feds won't commit to runway funds



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


A Federal Aviation Administration official told the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday that a Hagerstown Regional Airport runway extension would be appropriate and justified but said the federal agency is not ready to commit funding for the project.

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A county consultant, meanwhile, said the goal is to start construction of the extension in 2003 and to complete the work by 2005.

Plans are to extend the 5,450-foot runway to 7,000 feet.

The comments came during a presentation at the County Commissioners meeting.

It's too soon to speculate on how much money the FAA might provide for the runway extension, said Terry Page, manager of the FAA's Washington Airports District Office.

The FAA generally pays 90 percent of the cost of airport projects, with the state and county each paying 5 percent.

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The county previously estimated the extension cost at $25 million to $40 million because a longer runway extension would cross over U.S. 11, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said. He said the county has no updated estimate.

The current plan calls for building two adjacent underpasses where U.S. 11 would go under the runway, said Stephen Lucchesi of URS Corporation, which has been the county's aviation consultant for about eight years.

The plan calls for adjacent underpasses instead of a tunnel, Lucchesi said. The underpasses would also eliminate the need for a bridge.

The FAA is not telling the county whether it should or should not extend the runway, Page said. The agency will support whatever decision the county makes, he said.

"We're not telling you to extend the runway. That's not our job," he said.

He said later, however, "We do believe it's justified here."

The runway is short for today's business and regional jets, he said.

The County Commissioners last year generally endorsed extending the runway and the project is in the county's six-year capital improvement program.

The runway extension is the most important county economic development project, Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said. Local trucking companies, for example, could send and receive freight at the local airport rather than at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz has said that if the airport's runway isn't enlarged to better accommodate 19- and 30-passenger turboprop planes and more efficient jet-powered planes, it could become obsolete.

Earlier this year a county consultant submitted a study to the FAA demonstrating the justification for the runway extension, which is a necessary step for future funding.

Lucchesi said the FAA has tentatively approved that study, which concluded that 7,000 feet is the appropriate length for the runway.

The county will begin work soon on an environmental assessment, which will take about 20 months, Lucchesi said.

As part of the project, improvements will be made to the existing runway, he said.

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