• Council moves runway project ahead, authorizes site work
BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council, as expected, has authorized the city manager to sign grant applications and other documents that will start Phase I of the long-awaited Brookings Regional Airport Runway Realignment Project.
Councilors were told Tuesday that the plan for the initial work has been completed and approved, and the city will proceed with a bid letting for the multi-million-dollar project on Sept. 18.
The initial phase of the runway construction work will cost approximately $8.7 million, City Engineer Jackie Lanning said.
The city expects to receive a federal grant of about $7.9 million for Phase I. Additionally, the state will pay 8 percent of the total cost, and the city, 2 percent.
Because of a cutback in the level of federal contributions, however, the city’s share goes to 8 percent for next year’s work and for subsequent years, depending on the state’s participation. That will make the project significantly more expensive for the city.
Currently, the cost of the runway reconstruction at the airport has been pegged at about $18.8 million, but that number could fluctuate. The city engineer said Tuesday that costs for the initial phase construction will represent about a third of the total project expense. That could make the runway relocation a $25 million-plus project, but City Manager Jeff Weldon said today he believes the work will be completed at under $20 million.
The Phase I construction project will be awarded as a single contract, but the work will proceed in two steps:
• Grading and site work for the realignment of the runway, which will entail clearing and grading the runway area, rerouting a portion of Six Mile Creek, wetland mitigation and construction of a new access road and bridge;
• Construction of a new equalization basin and associated structures.
City officials had hoped that some ground work could start this fall, but it’s more likely that the majority of the Phase I construction will take place next spring. From that point on, the project will continue for the next four to five years.
It’s been more than six years since the Federal Aviation Administration told the city that by permitting certain buildings in the airport vicinity, it had violated airspace regulations and would need to make corrections. Years of planning and discussion followed the FAA directive.
The main runway will be rebuilt in 2013 and 2014, and the crosswind runway in 2016 and 2017. The work is scheduled to match federal funding cycles.
The city will have to front 100 percent of the project expenses and then apply for reimbursement. That could create a cash flow problem for the city, Weldon said, but “if they can get grants to us on a timely basis – with a payment schedule of every couple of months – we’re going to be okay.”
Weldon said earlier this summer that the city expects to keep the airport open, or with brief interruptions.
“I don’t expect any long-term closings,” he said. “We’ll keep the crosswind runway open, which should handle most aircraft that would come here. The main runway will remain open while the new one’s under construction, so that will help, too.”
Contact Ken Curley at kcurley@-brookingsregister.com.