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Airport upgrade bids received

May 15, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Two capital improvement projects viewed as steps to readying Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport for commercial flights appear on track to begin this summer.

Bids submitted by 12 contractors competing for the projects on the civilian side of Shepherd Field south of Martinsburg appeared to be significantly less than the grant awards the airport's governing agency has received for the work.

Jefferson Asphalt Products Co. Inc. was the apparent low bidder among three companies that submitted bids to rehabilitate the general aviation apron, according to Airport Manager William "Bill" Walkup. The Charles Town-based company submitted a base bid of $307,330 for the work, which could be done by mid-October, Walkup said.

"The only thing that can cripple them is real, real rainy weather," Walkup said. "This is really an easy job."

A bid of $485,894 by Panhandle Builders & Excavating Inc. of Martinsburg was the apparent low bid for work to extend "Taxiway Echo" by 1,300 feet.

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The Taxiway is parallel to the airport's main runway on the civilian side of the field and already has been completed from midfield to the east end, Walkup said.

This is the "first leg" due west and will ultimately intersect with a new crosswind runway that has yet to be funded, Walkup said.

Richard S. "Rick" Wachtel, chairman of the airport authority, told Berkeley County Commissioners on Thursday that he has been lobbying U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd for a $4.4 million earmark to help pay for the runway, which would provide an alternative landing option for pilots in adverse wind conditions.

"We are working on that," said Wachtel, who described the project as a safety issue to the state's delegation in Washington. "We've not given up hope on that."

Shepherd Field's old crosswind runway was abandoned to allow the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard based on the opposite side of Shepherd Field to become a fully operational C-5 aircraft unit, Wachtel said. The aircraft are much larger than the C-130 planes the 167th Airlift Wing had previously flown.

"Right now, there's 40 acres of concrete apron over there," Walkup said of the military's ongoing upgrades. "I measure in square yards, they measure in acres."

So far, more than $300 million in investment in the National Guard unit's base and noted construction of a third hangar and an avionics shop, among other projects are still in the works.

Even with the completion of the two civilian-side projects, Walkup said the airport still needs to bring its instrument landing system back online before pursuing expansion of commercial flights.

"We got to get that back in before we even start to talk," Walkup said. "We're not even really ready to discuss it for almost a year."

The apron project is being paid for with about $900,000 in federal and state funds and a $1.2 million federal stimulus grant awarded earlier this year will pay for the Taxiway extension, Walkup said.

Unlike past projects, local matching funds were not required by the state for the apron project and Wachtel and Walkup on Thursday offered to return a total of about $22,000 that the County Commission has appropriated in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years.

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