Funding secured for Morse Airport project
BENNINGTON — With federal funding approved, a major reconstruction of the Morse State Airport runway is scheduled to begin in the spring.
"What I am pushing for is March; we would like to have the airport reopened by June 1," said John Likakis, of the Bennington Airport Development Corp., the nonprofit management entity overseeing the facility.
"Anything we can do to make things go more smoothly for the contractor we are going to do," Likakis said.
The airport off Walloomsac Road will be closed during the major portion of the work, which is expected to take about 90 days, weather permitting.
The state Agency of Transportation announced last week that $3.5 million in funding through the Federal Aviation Administration had been approved for the Bennington project. Vermont will fund 10 percent of the cost.
Work will include reconstructing the runway to its base, replacing the lighting system, extending a cleared runway safety zone by 100 feet at one end, and the first phase of a project to create a parallel taxiway along the 3,704-foot runway.
"We anticipate starting construction in the spring of 2018, if all goes well," said Larry Lackey, aviation project developer with the AOT. "The runway closure is expected to be 90 days; however, we do not control the weather. The total construction of all aspects will be longer."
Markowski Excavating Inc., of Florence, submitted a low bid for the project of $3,912,960.
Mary Kay Genthner, senior airport engineer with the project design firm, Passero Associates of Rochester, N.Y., said during a project information session that the runway was constructed in 1982, and both the runway and its lighting system are near the end of their life spans.
Genthner said the reconstruction will extend down to the base of the runway, about three feet deep, and will also include a new subsurface drainage system.
The lighting system will have new wiring and a control unit set outside the airport office building. Runway lighting is typically activated by pilots from their aircraft and turns off automatically after about 15 minutes.
The 35-foot-wide taxi strip, initially extending about half the way along the runway, is designed to allow landing aircraft to immediately turn off the 75-foot-wide runway, and it allows pilots prepping for takeoff a space that is off the runway surface, keeping that open for other craft.
Installation of a new fuel storage facility, with larger fuel tanks, was planned to coincide with the runway project, Likakis said, but that work now is scheduled for 2019.
AOT officials have said the state will try to assist aircraft owners in making arrangements to use the Harriman and West Airport in North Adams, Mass., or other airports in the region, during the shutdown period. Likakis said he has not yet heard details of those plans.
The project is not expected to affect the type or size of aircraft that could use the Bennington airfield. Today, those include smaller private craft and turboprops up to the size of a Beechcraft King Air, along with some of the smaller corporate jets, such as the Cessna Citation.
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.
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