Friday, October 4, 2013

Airport construction costs projected at $34 million

Staff will discuss funding plan with FAA

Express Staff Writer

Passengers wait at the ticket desk at the Friedman Memorial Airport terminal. The terminal is scheduled for an $8.7 million reconfiguration beginning in the winter of 2014-15 to help create the space needed for safety modifications. Express file photo

     With grading costs lower than expected but terminal modifications higher, work to bring Friedman Memorial Airport in line with federally mandated safety standards is expected to cost $34 million—about the same as what was projected last year when the multi-phase construction project was approved.

     T-O Engineers consultant Dave Mitchell presented construction and funding figures to the Airport Authority during a meeting Tuesday at the old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. Following the presentation, the Airport Authority board directed airport staff to discuss a phasing and funding plan with the Federal Aviation Administration by late October.

     FAA Airport Improvement Program grants are expected to pay for $28.1 million worth of the work and private parties for $3.6 million to build new hangars, leaving the airport to come up with $2.3 million, mostly from the $4.50 passenger facility charges it receives from each airline ticket.

     Airport Manager Rick Baird said in an interview that the staff will need to come to agreement with the FAA on how much money will be needed in which years. He said he could not quite call funding from the agency a certainty, but said the FAA “has supported this project since its inception a year or so ago.”

     The multi-phase project is scheduled for completion by July 2015, five months before the deadline to meet new airfield space standards required by federal law.

     Airfield modifications are projected to cost $16.9 million and construction of buildings required to be moved in order to make room for those changes is projected to cost $11.9 million.

     The project’s $1.4 million Phase 1 is already under way, with paving to strengthen a plane parking apron scheduled to be done from Oct. 7-10 and paving of an access road on Oct. 11.

     The tentative schedule for remaining construction is as follows:

  • Spring 2014: Cost $9 million, of which $7 million will pay for moving the south half of the airport’s west taxiway 70 feet to the west in order to create more space between it and the runway. The runway will be closed for 25 days.
  • Summer 2014: Cost $2.7 million, of which $1.5 millionwill pay for repaving to strengthen a parking apron on the north side of the terminal due to the loss of parking areas for planes after the taxiway is moved.
  • Winter 2014-15: Cost $10.1 million, of which $4.3 million will pay for partial relocation and expansion of the terminal. Construction of new hangars displaced by the taxiway relocation will cost $3.6 million.
  • Spring 2015: Cost $8.4 million, of which $4.4 million will pay for terminal modifications, $2.1 million for moving the north half of the west taxiway and $1.9 million to rebuild the building that houses snow removal and rescue and fire-fighting equipment. The runway will again be closed for 25 days.
  • Summer 2015: Cost $2.4 million, of which $2.2 million will pay for repaving of a cargo apron at the north end of the airport.

     An additional project will involve moving the airport’s air traffic control tower, at a cost of about $4 million. The FAA has said it wants that done within 10 years.

     Baird said in an interview that five tenants have private hangars at the airport. He said FAA grant money should pay them the appraised value of those hangars when they are demolished to make space for the necessary airfield modifications. He said they will be provided with new spaces to rebuild, but what they build and at what cost will be up to them, even though estimated costs are included in the project’s budget.

     Development of a construction project to meet federal safety standards at Friedman began after a plan to build a new airport somewhere south of Bellevue was suspended in August 2011.  However, discussion at the Tuesday meeting noted that even though the airport is embarking on a major construction project, the ultimate goal is still to build a new airport.

     “I’m constantly reminded that to keep the airport operational costs a ton of money,” authority board member and Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said. “While there’s criticism of finding a new airport, I think we should all keep in mind how much it costs to keep the airport open.”

     In other airport news:

  • The airport staff received information from the American Association of Airport Executives that contract air traffic control towers such as the one at Friedman will remain funded through the end of October. However Baird said that funding beyond that time remains uncertain.

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