Aug. 11--The Fort Smith Regional Airport is receiving a $4.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to fund the completion of a long-running project to realign a taxiway by next fall.
The realignment of Taxiway A West, which intersects Runway 1/19, will allow the airport to operate more efficiently and safely, Airport Director John Parker said.
The grant is the single largest FAA grant that the airport has received and is supported by the FY14 omnibus appropriations bill signed into law in January. The grant will fund most of the construction costs to complete the project, which is now in its fourth year.
In late May the Fort Smith Airport Commission approved a construction bid of $4.6 million to Forsgren Inc. of Fort Smith to construct Phase 3 of Taxiway A West pending approval of the FAA grant.
Identified as a design flaw in the FAA's new standards during a certification inspection prior to 2010, Airport Director John Parker said the airport has worked since then to correct a "dog-leg turn" by constructing a true parallel taxiway with Runway 1/19 in phases as funds allowed.
"It will complete the realignment of Taxiway Alpha," Parker said. "It's the single largest FAA grant the airport has received. We've had bigger projects, but this is the largest single grant."
Airport Commissioner Jan Nordin, a former captain with Eastern Airlines, said a true parallel taxiway will make it more accessible to more sizes of aircraft, and improve visibility on the tarmac in foggy conditions.
"I've had to get a radar vector to get to the terminal before," Nordin said. "This will alleviate a whole lot of problems."
U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. and John Boozman, R-Ark., as well 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, joined in praise of the grant as an important piece of infrastructure improvement and economic development.
"This is exciting news for my hometown of Fort Smith," Boozman stated in a news release. "The investment will help meet the demands placed on the Fort Smith airport and support growth and commerce in the region."
The airport has seen a steady increase in passenger traffic this year, with the latest report showing a 9.8 percent increase over July 2013 numbers. Traffic is up 6.9 percent for the year. The airport has also made improvements to its runway lighting.
"These funds will allow Fort Smith to make smart, essential improvements to its airport," stated Womack. "Developing our transportation infrastructure is key to the continued growth of the city's and our state's economies."
The Fort Smith Airport Commission will meet at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in a special meeting at the airport to officially accept the FAA grant and offer a recommendation to resolve the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting situation following the change in mission of the 188th Fighter Wing.
Copyright 2014 - Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.