GILFORD, N.H. -- The runway at Laconia Airport, normally 5,286 feet long, has been shortened to 2,700 feet until late June, when the second phase of an $8.1 million runway project will be competed.
Airport manager Diane Cooper said the runway will be back to its normal length in time to handle heavy air traffic that will arrive for the July 1 Nextel Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, when dozens of NASCAR teams and drivers use the airport.
Plans had originally called for the runway to be cut back to 3,200 feet long this month and for it to close for two weeks in late September after the fall NASCAR race in order to pave the other 500 feet of runway.
But Cooper said that planned temporary closure met with objections from airport users and the Laconia Airport Authority decided instead to work with Pike Industries, contractor for the repaving, to adjust the work schedule so that more work could be done this spring, averting the fall closure.
She said that the project will enable the airport to meet Federal Aviation Administration safety guidelines by increasing runway safety areas from 200 feet to 600 feet at both ends of the runway. As part of the project, a new taxiway is being built, enabling continued use of the existing instrument landing system.
The instrument landing system is now turned off due to the shortened runway but will be reactivated around June 20 when the FAA is scheduled to inspect the airport project, Cooper said. She said that the localizer and the localizer building are being relocated and new visual flight aids are being installed.
The project affects 13 acres of wetlands and has resulted in the relocation of Meadow Brook for a short distance. Cooper said that airport has placed 143 acres of non-runway access property under permanent conservation easement.
"We're removing areas of old pavement, so much in fact that when the project is finished the overall square footage of impervious surfaces at the airport will be just about what it is now,'' Cooper said.
She said that the new pavement will be grooved and the drainage improved and that existing pavement is being reclaimed and laid down as a subsurface, increasing the strength of the finished runway surface.
When the project is completed the runway will be four inches higher than it is now.
Cooper said the project is 95 percent funded by the FAA, about $7.7 million, with the state and the airport authority each paying $204,000.
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Earlier this year the FAA awarded the local authority $5 million for the runway improvements.
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