Runway Extension Likely in Plan for Toledo Airport

Aug. 1--An extension of Toledo Express Airport's north-south runway and new passenger boarding bridges suitable for smaller aircraft are among likely elements of an updated master plan that a Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority consultant is developing.

The update is required for the airport to maintain its eligibility for Federal Aviation Administration project grants, airport director Paul Toth said.

Lengthening the secondary runway from its current 5,599 feet to 8,000 feet will be a centerpiece of the plan, with Mr. Toth predicting construction to begin in five to 10 years. As it is, the runway is too short for larger jets, which makes nighttime cargo operations vulnerable to a problem with Toledo Express's 10,600-foot main runway.

"If the primary runway is down, BAX Global is out of business," Bradley J. Wente, a senior aviation engineer with consultant Reynolds, Smith & Hills Inc. said in a recent presentation to the port authority's airport committee.

"If we're going to be serious about growing cargo [business], we're going to need to have an alternate runway," Mr. Toth said.

That alone wouldn't justify the runway extension for federal funding purposes, Mr. Wente said, but the longer runway would benefit smaller airplanes that have trouble taking off or landing in strong crosswinds. Extra length would allow them to use the secondary runway while larger planes continued using the main runway at the same time, using "land and hold short" rules.

A first hearing on the airport plan will probably be held in late September, Mr. Toth said.

The port authority owns the land upon which it would actually construct the runway extension, the airport director said, but further study will be needed to determine whether the increased flight operations using it after completion would warrant acquiring nearby property as a noise-mitigation step.

"I don't expect that much to happen because it's always going to be a secondary runway for us," Mr. Toth said.

The airport director cited the rapid deployment of smaller "regional jets" by the airlines as a trend that wasn't anticipated when the Toledo Express master plan last was updated, in 1992. Boarding bridges for such craft have to be longer to maintain gradual slopes required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, the port authority will be looking to replace some of its older bridges designed for traditional jets that call at Express much less frequently.

Another element likely to be added in the new plan is an upgrade of the navigational-aids system that pilots rely on for instrument-only landings at the airport when visibility is poor.

This master plan is different from one prepared three years ago focusing on the airport's passenger terminal, and is distinct as well from an earlier long-range plan that included such concepts as a second main runway parallel to the current one, with a midfield passenger terminal between them.

For the immediate future, Mr. Toth said, the current passenger terminal can be modified to meet the airport's needs, and its location is more convenient to Airport Highway and the Ohio Turnpike than a new one south of the current main runway would be.

A contract for the $4.6 million first phase of a renovation program for the existing terminal is to be advertised for bids starting today, with award likely by the Sept. 22 meeting of the port authority's board of directors, the airport director said.

The first phase will largely be out of sight, as it will involve reconfiguring the terminal's office space and baggage-handling area.

A second phase, during which the passenger concourse will be renovated, will be designed starting in October and probably be bid next spring.