Morgantown Officials Hope For Runway Extension

Morgantown city officials are hoping a 1,000-foot runway extension will be added to the list of projects

Feb. 21--Morgantown city officials are hoping a 1,000-foot runway extension will be added to the list of projects surrounding the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

To that end, the city will spend the next four to five months preparing a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of the extension for presentation to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Glen Kelly, Morgantown's assistant city manager, said some early calculations show the airport could land 1,000 additional feet on the runway's southern end for about $30.5 million.

Should the project move forward, Kelly said it would likely be spread over five years. He explained a scenario in which the city, which owns the airport, could cover about half the project's cost.

During the five years of the project, the airport will collect $5 million in annual FAA allotment funding. That will be added to roughly $3 million from WVU for the 2012 purchase of various properties near Falling Run and University Avenue.

Additionally, Kelly said the city is "exploring" the possibility of an airport neighbor, the Army National Guard, doing the earth moving for the job, which would be an estimated potential savings of another $8 million.

Kelly said the extension would allow the airport to accept regional jets as well as better serve larger business-class aircraft, some of which can only land on Morgantown's 5,200-foot runway in clear weather due to insurance restrictions.

The longer runway also would mean the possibility of use by the WVU athletic department, which uses airports in Pittsburgh and Clarksburg.

Kelly said WVU supports the project. Former WVU President James Clements wrote a letter as part of a 2012 submission to the FAA in which he said an extension was "desperately needed" due to the growth of both the city and the university.

"The city and WVU are working together to get that 1,000 feet. The football teams are still going to go to Clarksburg. We're not trying to take that from them. That's not the intent here," Kelly said. "We 're just trying to get enough so that we can maintain solvency and be viable in the future."

The material for the extension would be taken from several locations, including the 95-acre site selected for the Monongalia County Development Authority Business Park.

A longer runway has been on the airport's wish list for some time.

In 2004, the runway safety area was extended by 1,100 feet. Dan Boroff, former Morgantown City Manager, said at the time that one day, the safety zone would be an extension of the runway itself.

Boroff said he still believes the extension will happen when the timing is right.

"At one point, nobody thought the far side of the airport would be developed e i t h e r, " Boroff said. "This is just the next challenge and I know the city is working hard" to get it done.

All told, Kelly said it would likely be two years before any dirt is moved, pending approval.

"This isn't immediate, but it's something that could still benefit the city 50 years from now," Kelly said.

A request for comment from the WV Army National Guard was not returned in time for this report.

Copyright 2014 - The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

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