Hearing set on Bennington Airport upgrade project

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jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com     

BENNINGTON — The state expects to seek bids early next year on a major runway reconstruction project at the William H. Morse State Airport and plans a public input session Jan. 12 in Bennington for business owners, pilots and other residents to offer comments.

Mary Kay Genthner, senior airport engineer with the project design firm, Passero Associates of Rochester, N.Y., said Friday that the Vermont Agency of Transportation-sponsored meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Bennington Fire Facility on River Street. Design drawings will be available for inspection.

The meeting will offer the final opportunity for residents to comment on aspects of the plan. Work includes the first complete reconstruction of the runway since the mid-1980s, along with grading work and an extension of the grass overrun area at the west end of the runway from 200 to 300 feet.

Bids are now expected to go out in February or March, she said, and the work is estimated to cost about $5 million.

Funding is expected to come from the federal government (90 percent) and the state (10 percent).

Genthner said the Federal Aviation Administration has moved the plan onto a schedule for airport projects to be funded next year, pending a final review of the bids. Work is expected to begin early in 2018.

John Likakis, an officer with the Bennington Airport Development Corp., a nonprofit group formed locally to promote and manage the airport off Walloomsac Road, said the 3,704-foot runway has served the area well but is overdue for a complete resurfacing. He said another key feature in the project design is the creation of a parallel taxiway stretching about half the distance of the runway. That will allow craft that have landed to taxi toward the office, hangars and other buildings without having to use the main runway surface, which would then be open for other landings.

Likakis said there has been no serious discussion of extending the runway to allow larger craft to land. He said he would like to see the paved area extended to 4,000 feet to allow somewhat larger jet aircraft, but the cost would be difficult to justify and "no one has been beating down the doors" from local businesses seeking a longer runway surface.

In addition, there would be obstacles to such an extension, he said, even if residents did not object, in that Walloomsac Road is close on one end of the runway and there is a low, wet area off the opposite end.

Currently, the airport is used by smaller private craft and turboprops up to the size of a Beechcraft King Air and by some of the smaller corporate jets, such as the Cessna Citation, he said.

Jim Therrien writes for the Bennington Banner and VtDigger.org. He can be reached at 802-447-7567, ext. 114. @BB_therrien on Twitter.








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