Athens Review, Athens, Texas

July 24, 2013

City, AEDC discuss runway

Roads at end of runway limit lengthening

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Efforts to expand the runway at Athens Municipal Airport face some formidable obstacles.

City of Athens officials and members of the Athens Economic Development Corporation met with a Texas Department of Transportation representative on Wednesday to hear a formal presentation of how far the runway can be lengthened and the projected cost. The city wants to expand the runway to make it accessible to larger aircraft.

TxDOT aviation planner Mathew Felton said the cost of expanding the runway from its current 3,998 feet to the desired 5,000 feet would be about $4.8 million. That includes $1,170,000 for rehabilitation of the current airport and $3,611,000 for the extension. Athens would have to put up a 10-percent local match.

But before any more action can be taken, the city must submit user-support letters to TxDOT from those who use the airport, explaining why they would benefit from the additional runway length.

City Administrator Pam Burton said the city will send surveys to those who use the airport to get their input.

“I have no problem with doing the survey,” Mayor Jerry Don Vaught said. “I’d be very curious to see what the survey says.”

Felton said expansion opportunities are limited by roads on each end of the airport.  Moving the roads would drive the cost of expansion to about $26 million, which is far beyond what the city is likely to get funded. If the roads stay in place, they limit the length of the roadway that can actually be used by pilots in taking off and landing their planes. The effective length of the runway would only be 4,228 feet.

AEDC Board member Joe Masso said the city’s motivation for expanding the runway is to be able to compete with other cities in the region that have airports with 5,000 feet of runway. Board member Maurice Cox said expanding the runway to 2,228 feet would only allow a few other types of aircraft to land in Athens, such as a Beach 400 or a Lear 45.

Felton said the runway is due for a rehabilitation in 2015, which involves redoing the pavement and making safety improvements. The airport last had a major rehabilitation in 2007.