Quakertown Airport is again preparing to rebuild its 1960s-era taxiway, a year after the project bogged down because of worries that it might get too expensive.
An official said there are no plans "in the foreseeable future" to extend the length of the Milford Township airfield's runway, though. Neighbors have complained in the past about the idea of a runway extension.
The Bucks County Airport Authority, which controls the airport, has awarded a $2.8 million contract for work that includes rebuilding and widening the deteriorating taxiway.
A runway is the long paved strip that planes use for takeoffs and landings; the taxiway is a separate paved strip planes use for driving around on the ground while preparing for takeoffs or finishing up after landings.
John Mininger, a board member with the authority, said the taxiway's condition isn't causing safety problems; it is causing "costs and headaches," as airport workers make stopgap fixes until the full replacement is completed, he said.
The authority originally hoped to restore the airfield's runway at the same time, but put the project on hold last year after bids came back around $5 million -- well over what it hoped to pay.
Quakertown Airport was built in the 1940s. Both its runway and taxiway date to 1968.
Mininger said the group ultimately decided to delay rebuilding the runway, probably until next year, and move ahead with the other work for a reduced price.
"When we broke down the project, it was much more in line with what we expected," he said.
When the Airport Authority began talking about upgrades for Quakertown Airport, officials said they wanted to extend the length of the runway from about 3,200 feet to 3,800 feet.
That proposal drew fire from some neighbors, who fear a longer runway could lure bigger planes.
Mininger said the authority intends the airport to remain used only by smaller aircraft.
He said it eventually wants to extend the length of the runway, but "not in the foreseeable future" because of the complexity of such work.
The authority wants to extend the runway at some point because 3,800 feet is the optimal length for small aircraft to operate safely, Mininger said.
He said the airport's not unsafe now, comparing it to the fact that roads differ in width without affecting driving safety.
"Some roads are wider than others," he said. "The goal is to always make them as user-friendly as possible."
Almost 19,000 takeoffs or landings happen at Quakertown Airport a year, he said.
The taxiway contract was awarded to Blooming Glen Contractors Inc. A grant from the federal government is paying for 95 percent of the work. The Airport Authority and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are paying for the rest.
The taxiway work should be done by June, Mininger said. While it's being rebuilt, planes will have to taxi on the runway, he said, but that shouldn't hinder operations much.
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