Lincoln Airport Runway Project Begins to Move Forward

May 13, 2024

May 12—A special Lincoln Airport Authority board meeting on Monday will officially get the ball rolling on a runway reconstruction project expected to cost upward of $96 million.

"It's sort of the first big step," said Chad Lay, Lincoln Airport's director of planning and development.

Monday's meeting, which could last just a few minutes, will consist of the Airport Authority entering into a contractual agreement with the Nebraska National Guard by accepting a check for more than a million dollars. Those funds will be used for the design portion of the runway project.

The National Guard's share of the runway design is $1,034,594.91 and is expected to kick off a project that has been in the negotiating stages for years.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has been involved in procuring the military side of the funding, Lay said, while the Lincoln Airport negotiated with the Federal Aviation Administration "for the civilian side of the money."

"Now that we've got all those negotiations completed, this is the first of the actual contracts in place between us and the Guard," Lay said. "It's actually the mechanism that allows us to move forward over the course of the next year."

And the years to follow, he said. The reconstruction of one of the nation's longest runways is expected to take years.

The Journal Star reported in 2022 that ordinarily, the FAA would pay for 90% of the project with the airport covering the rest, but the sticking point was that it would only pay for a length it determines is needed for commercial airline flights at the airport.

Because the airport was a former Air Force base, it has one of the longest runways of any commercial airport in the country — nearly 13,000 feet.

Airport officials estimated then that the FAA would only pay for a runway somewhere around 8,000-10,000 feet long.

However, the airport is home to the Nebraska Air National Guard's 155th Air Refueling Wing, with its fleet of eight Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers, which are very large planes that need a longer-than-normal runway.

Meanwhile, Fischer lauded the Senate's passage of legislation on Thursday night that reauthorized the FAA for the next five years.

"This major legislation will strengthen safety for the flying public and bolster Nebraska's manufacturing industry," Fischer said in a written statement. "... By continuing support for small and rural airports, the bill ensures that Nebraskans remain connected with the nation."

Each airport in Nebraska receives annual funding from the FAA, and the passing of the legislation ensures the Lincoln Airport will get $1,646,897 to be used for capital projects.

Lay said it's likely the airport will carry over that funding and use it in future years for the runway reconstruction.

"It's not final, but the current plan is to roll those over and contribute (it) to the construction project."

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