$7M budgeted for airport’s runway extension


Work to extend the Huntingburg Airport’s runway will likely start next spring.

About $7 million in federal funding has been programmed into the budgets of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Dubois County Airport Authority heard Monday.

“It’s the first time in four years that the airport has made the cut to be budgeted,” Project Engineer Curtis Brown of Indianapolis firm Woolpert Inc. said after the meeting. “Sometimes, things get tweaked. But rarely does it get declined (by the national FAA).”

The funding needs final approval from the FAA’s national office. But the fact that it is now in the budget makes it an almost guarantee to be granted, Brown told the board.

The airport authority has been planning for years to make the airport’s runway longer and wider, utilizing funding from INDOT and the FAA. A longer runway allows planes to carry more weight. When a plane flies out of Huntingburg, it’s usually the fuel, not the passengers or luggage, that gets sacrificed for weight reasons. With less fuel, a plane might need to land more frequently to refuel, a possible burden when executives need to travel quickly. By extending the runway, the airport becomes more attractive to customers.

Once the national FAA approves the budget, the regional FAA and INDOT will request the grant application from the airport, which will include the bids for the projects.

“This is great news,” authority board member Mike Cummings said. “It’s nice to know that with the interaction we’ve had with the FAA, and it didn’t feel very positive at times, they were listening.”

Brown had been planning for $3.5 million to be granted this year. That would cover the costs of relocating utilities, lowering County Road 200 West and constructing a tunnel over the road near the end of the new runway.

But the $7 million amount covers the majority of the project, including the reconstruction of 900 feet of existing runway and the mass grading, paving and lights for the runway and taxiway A extension. All of these were listed in the airport’s 2019 federal plan for capital improvements.

The only projects not included are $2.1 million for widening the runway and $1 million for replacing taxiway A’s edge lighting system. Those projects are in the federal capital improvements plan for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The authority must now prepare the rest of its grant application, which will be sent in once the national FAA approves the budget. Brown said he now has to complete engineering work for the additional projects to attach to the application.

“We will need to move pretty quickly,” he told the board.

Brown expects to hear about the approved budget this summer. Bids will also be taken this summer, with the hopes that contracts are awarded this fall. If all follows that plan, construction would start in the spring 2020.

The board was elated to hear the news.

“There is finally light at the end of the tunnel,” authority board member Bob Johnson said.

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