The city of Frederick is poised to take a major step forward in its airport runway expansion project after working for over a decade to line up funding for the work.
The aldermen are likely to approve Thursday a nearly $2.7 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to help pay for a demolition project on Bailes Lane. Removing the buildings will clear the way to extend Frederick Municipal Airport runway 5-23 from 5,280 feet to 6,000 feet.
Crews will demolish buildings along the road, the old Waffle House on East Patrick Street and three houses in Tulip Hill. They will also relocate a gas line.
“It’s wonderful to see this project finally start to show movement,” airport manager Rick Johnson said Monday. “It’s just one step closer for us to getting the runway’s extension complete.”
He expected the demolition to begin in November, he added, and it will be good to see the “eyesore” vacant buildings come down.
City and airport staff have been working for a decade on the runway extension, Johnson said. Progress was put on hold as Frederick waited to be reimbursed for land it purchased for the project.
The FAA announced in August that the airport could receive a total of $4 million for projects at the airport, a sum dependent on the actual cost of the winning bid contracts.
The Board of Aldermen is to vote Thursday whether to accept the grant and to award Demolition Services Inc. over $978,000 to begin the first phase of demolition.
Alderman Michael O’Connor, airport liaison, expected a quick approval.
“I think that’s pretty straightforward,” he said of moving the funds. “The master plan has been out there, and the long-term objectives of what we’re trying to accomplish at the airport [are] fairly well-known. It’s always been contingent on the federal funding.”
Approved airport projects are eligible for federal funding to the tune of 90 percent of the cost.
City staff have said that lengthening the runway will allow jets to take off with full fuel tanks. They expect that to increase fuel sales and encourage takeoffs and landings at the airport.
“It’s a regional economic driver,” O’Connor said.
The aldermen will also vote on a Wildlife Hazard Assessment Plan for the airport. They will consider issuing a $64,500 purchase order to Delta Airport Consultants, the on-call airport consultants, to develop the plan. A $58,000 FAA grant toward the project will also be before the board for consideration.
A student pilot in 2014 attempted to avoid a herd of deer, according to FAA reports, while approaching the runway, but one of the animals ran into the landing gear. A similar situation occurred in 2010.
The airport has a deer-kill program to help control the deer population in airport space, Johnson has previously told The Frederick News-Post.
Johnson said there has not been a significant history of problems with wildlife at the airport, but the FAA asked the airport to study fauna within 5 miles of the airport for a year to help mitigate any potential dangers.
“It comes down to safety,” he said.