Oklahoma Commission Approves $4.4 M for Airports

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission on Thursday approved a plan to contribute about $4.4 million over the next three years toward capital improvement projects at regional and community airports. The full cost for the projects totals nearly $35 million.

"If it wasn't this balance, of about 90-percent private investment and 10 percent from the state, I wouldn't be bringing it to you," Director Victor Bird told members of the commission when presenting the Three Year Capital Improvement Program. The proposed plan includes 13 projects at 11 regional airports and covering the commission's cost of preparing the CIP.

The most expensive project included in the CIP is planned for Ponca City Regional Airport, which has 76 based aircraft, including two jets. The project will bring the airport into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration standards by widening the distance between the standard runway and the taxiway. The realignment will also require the construction of new aircraft parking aprons and access aprons. The commission plans to contribute just over $1 million for the project, but with federal dollars and a contribution from the project sponsor, funding for the project is expected to reach nearly $8 million.

The commission's goal is to build jet-capable runways at Oklahoma's regional business airports that meet FAA criteria. Alva Regional is slated for a new 5,000-foot runway and parallel taxiway, a $3.9 million project.

Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City is due for some upgrades, strengthening and extending its taxiway and pavement areas to accommodate heavier aircraft, such as the Gulfstream IV, now operating at the airport. Other improvements would add lighting, expedite traffic in and out of the airport, and begin the first phase of an extension to accommodate future growth. Total funding for the project comes to $4.3 million, with the commission contributing just under $594,000.

Guthrie-Edmond Regional is gearing up for future development. Plans are to acquire roughly 90 acres to the south and southwest of the airport for future development and to protect the approach to the airport, for a total of $1.83 million.

Two projects are planned for Richard L. Jones Jr. regional business airport in Tulsa. The first, totaling $3.1 million, will create a drainage system to allow storm water to drain from the airport to the Arkansas River. The areas currently used for holding back storm water runoff create a number of safety hazards by inviting wildlife onto the airfield and even blocking emergency traffic in some spots. Drainage improvements are also expected to prolong the life of the infrastructure by eliminating water damage to the pavement.

The second project at Jones airport is a $105,000 plan to install access control gates to manage ground traffic. The airport has recently seen an increase in incidents where visitors unfamiliar with the airport have been inadvertently driving onto the active taxiway and runway system.

At Ada Municipal business airport, the taxiway pavement is in an extremely unsafe condition, according to the commission report, and loose gravel lines taxiway shoulders. There is a possibility that loose gravel could be sucked into aircraft engines and cause significant damage, according to the commission report, which recommends "urgent corrective action. " The airport has 48 based aircraft including three jets, and plans are to add another three jets in the near future. Funding for the realignment and reconstruction of the taxiway totals $3.2 million, with $80,000 provided by the commission.

Safety improvements are planned for Eaker Field, a regional business airport in Durant; Enid Woodring Regional; the Max Westheimer regional business airport at the University of Oklahoma in Norman; and at William R. Pogue Municipal in Sand Springs. At the Thomas P. Stafford regional business airport in Weatherford, a $1 million project to relocate the hangars from the terminal apron will accommodate additional terminal aircraft parking space.

The commission also plans to add $31,600 to another $600,000 from the federal government to fund its ongoing system plan, covering the costs of developing the three-year plan, collecting updated information from airports and communicating their needs to members of Congress, pavement management and other activities.

The commission's three-year plan also lists a number of smaller improvement projects, including $131,500 for a new airport beacon and tower at Fountainhead State Park in Eufaula.

The Ketchum-Craig County South Grant Lake Community Airport will extend and pave its turf runway with $200,000 from the commission, $265,000 in cash contributions, and in-kind contributions of base material, county equipment and labor, engineering, and the use of private construction equipment.

Amy Polonchek, interim executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, extended Gov. Brad Henry's thanks to the commission for initiating a $40,000 study for Stillwater Regional to determine the load-bearing capacity and structural health of the runway. The south 4,800 feet of the runway is constructed of 6 inches of Portland cement, which was covered with an asphalt overlay in 1994. The pavement is exhibiting random cracking, but thus far does not seem to have suffered a base failure.

The three-year plan also includes $400,000 for the commission's Automated Weather Observation System, which has weather equipment installed at OU in Norman, Blackwell Tonkawa Municipal Airport and Stigler Regional Airport. The AWOS system improves safety and increases airport utilization by providing pilots with accurate and reliable weather information, reads the report.

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