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Crosswind runway expansion planned for airport in 2013

Plans call for extending and paving the airport's crosswind runway.

The crosswind runway at Park Rapids Municipal Airport is unusable much of the year due to snow buildup. It's unsafe for landing at night because it's not lighted and not long enough.

The airport's apron is a safety hazard because vehicles are currently able to drive right out into air traffic.

A long-range proposal for ameliorating those concerns was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday by the Park Rapids City Council.

John Peterson of TKDA, the St. Paul based engineering and planning consultants for the airport, said if the plan moves forward, design of the second runway would be completed in 2012 with construction in 2013.

The city, with the encouragement of the FAA, has begun the preliminary steps on a two-phased project that will improve the runway and bring city water to the airport. TKDA is in the midst of the Environmental Assessment portion of the project, which looks at 23 different aspects. The public hearing for the estimated $2.2 million project is required during that phase of the process.

"It's been in our CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for years," said Park Rapids City Administrator Bill Smith. "Over the years it's been a pipe dream because it's a rather large project. In the last year the FAA and state Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division has taken an interest in it and it's starting to get some legs."

Smith cautions that the estimates are a few years old and have not been updated, so project costs could vary from that $2.2 million. But the FAA funds 95 percent of the projects it approves, so having FAA backing is a key component to getting the project completed, Smith said.

"It will improve safety through paving, lighting and extension," Peterson said of Runway 18/36.

The unpaved runway would be extended from 3,000 feet to 3,500 feet, then be paved.

"The runway is unusable for most of the year, and therefore the airport lacks the recommended wind coverage," said a report compiled by TKDA.

The main runway, 13/31, "by itself provides only 90 percent wind coverage for light aircraft (95 percent is recommended by the FAA.)"

The project also entails constructing a parallel taxiway that would "allow safe access to both runway ends and minimize chances of a runway incursion," the report states.

"The proposed project would also remove obstructions that create a safety hazard for the extended runway."

Fencing off the apron "would reduce the growing conflict between aircraft and automobiles on the ground by separating the auto traffic from the aircraft apron," the proposal suggests.

And, by hooking the airport up to city water and sanitary sewers, "the airport will avoid the potential groundwater impacts and well contamination, will provide a more reliable water supply (with respect to both quantity and quality) and will improve fire protection," the report states.

Peterson noted "the septic system is prone to freezing" currently during the winter.

Peterson said work on the water main could begin this summer.

"Sometime last year the FAA took notice of it (the water main) and started encouraging us to develop this project and in the last two months or so we're getting encouragement to go forward, to get it designed and ready to go," Smith said.

"The water portion is estimated at about $246,000 for water and sanitary sewer and $155,000 for the storm sewer and then they're talking about adding a little bit on to the parking lot," Smith said.

"And those numbers will increase a little bit because the Fire Department and the water folks will want to have those water lines oversized for future expansion."

Smith said the FAA would only fund a 2-inch pipe to the terminal building; for fire protection and better water service, that will be enlarged for future needs. The city will pick up the share that exceeds what the FAA will fund.

"Fire protection is part of the rationale and justification," for the FAA's interest in extending city water to the airport, Smith said.

Meanwhile the Environmental Assessment will go through some revisions on the runway portion of the project and be available for a public comment period to the FAA once it's finalized.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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