Airport planning prioritizes projects

April 5th, 2017

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Fort Wayne International Airport has a plan in place that could make the most of any new funding that could be coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of a push to improve the nation’s infrastructure.

President Donald Trump addressed the issue in a speech before Congress Feb. 28, when he said he would be asking its members to approve legislation at some point seeking $1 trillion for infrastructure. He previously had signed an executive order expediting the environmental review and approval process for infrastructure projects.

“Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land,” Trump said in the speech.

“America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East – all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States “– financed through both public and private capital – creating millions of new jobs.”

Federal funds help

Last year provided the most recent example of Fort Wayne International receiving discretionary funding from the DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration, said Joe Marana, the airport’s director of facilities and operations.

The FAA awarded grant funding to help with a $20.1-million reconstruction of runway 14-32. Stretching about 8,000 feet southwest to northeast, it is the airport’s second largest runway.

“Annually, we don’t see anything close to that; most years we receive about $2.5 million. The airport did fund locally 6 percent of the project,” Marana said.

FAA grant funding is covering 90 percent of the cost, with 4 percent covered by the state and 6 percent by the airport authority, he said. The funding is in addition to an amount the airport receives from the FAA each year based on the number of passengers boarding flights there.

The agency’s Airport Improvement Program awards grants for the planning and development of public-use airports that are part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

This year’s priority infrastructure project involves rehabilitation work on runway 5-23, Marana said. Stretching about 12,000 feet northwest to southeast, it is the airport’s primary runway.

“We keep a list of projects, and every year we take a look and add to that list. If more funding was available, obviously there would be things we’d pull off from later years to do earlier,” he said.

List goes on

Following rehabilitation of the primary runway, taxiway work and terminal apron improvements would be next on the list of important infrastructure upgrades planned for the airport.

For example, some terminal apron improvements are planned for 2019.

“If we were to get more funding, say this year, we could pull that project up,” Marana said.

Concrete has a lifespan. The airport authority hires engineers to do in-depth analysis of the facility’s pavement, he said, to help schedule its timely rehabilitation and replacement while making sure it lives out its useful life.

A schedule for this is part of the airport’s 10-year plan, which also includes projects it could tackle for the improvement of its access roads, parking and terminal.

A second pay by credit card only lot was added to the facility in recent months, creating 86 additional parking spaces as part of a project that replaced all parking lot gates, ticket dispensers and pay stations.

New equipment and software installed as part of the update provides the airport with an accurate occupancy count and allows its staff to alert passengers when specific lots become full.

The airport authority has a study underway now to project demands on the terminal and recommend when it should begin any terminal improvements to meet future needs. The study will be completed this year.

The airport saw 365,884 boardings last year, which was up 1.9 percent from 359,051 in 2015 and 12.9 percent from 324,151 in 2014.

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