Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Murfreesboro Municipal Airport (KMBT) unveils new plan: Residents can sound off Wednesday. (Tennessee)

Diamond aircraft takes off at the Murfreesboro Airport Monday afternoon. The Murfreesboro Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday evening at City Hall concerning the run way expansion at the airport located on Memorial Blvd. 
Photo by Jim Davis

MURFREESBORO — The city’s overdue Murfreesboro Airport plans on a $5.2 million runway upgrade will add 1,102 feet and help MTSU’s aviation needs, officials said.

“We’re just trying to keep up with the demand at our airport,” said George Huddleston Jr., chairman of the Murfreesboro Airport Commission. “Five-thousand feet is the ultimate length of the runway. We can’t go farther to the north or south due to existing neighborhoods and DeJarnette Lane. This is as long as the runway will ever be. There will never be another runway extension at Murfreesboro Airport.”

The runway work is supposed to be completed by summer 2013 at the nearly 200-acre airport off Memorial Boulevard on the city’s north side.

Neighbors and others impacted by the plans will get the chance to speak during a public hearing during a Murfreesboro Planning Commission meeting that starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chambers at City Hall.

This will be the second of three public hearings about the airport’s runway upgrade and layout plans. The last yet-scheduled public hearing will be before the City Council, which has final authority on the plans, Murfreesboro Airport Manager Chad Gehrke said.

The airport currently is 3,890 feet long, and the new and improved overlay will cost about $1.6 million. The extension of 1,102 feet will cost $3.6 million.

The city will use its revenues from the sale of fuels and hanger rentals and leases to cover its 10 percent of the project, and the other 90 percent will come from Federal Aviation Administration and Tennessee Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, Gehrke said.

“We will probably work out a bond issue with the city and pay that back,” Gehrke said.

Both state and federal authorities have reviewed and approved the project.

“Now it’s a matter of the local government adopting our plan for the airport,” said Gehrke, who supervises six part-time employees who are part of an overall workforce of around 77 at the airport.

An MTSU study estimated the airport having a $70 million economic impact.

The longer runway won’t increase employment by much, the airport manager said.

“I think it would be more of a efficient and better service to this community,” Gehrke said.

Getting it built

Once approved, it will take several months of engineering and bid preparation before a contractor can be hired, Huddleston said.

Both the overlay work on the existing runway and the extension will take place at the same time during a stretch in the summer of 2013, and airport officials hope they only need to close for two weeks while MTSU aviation students are not taking classes, Huddleston said.

“Our runway has been deteriorating,” Huddleston said. “We really should have done the runway either last year or this year. If we have any six-month delays, it could cost us a whole year in delays.”

The goal was to have this work done by summer 2012, but the city was hit with months of a delay when a state official initially insisted the project required Murfreesboro to buy residential property for the larger runway protection zone. The FAA, however, only suggests such a step without mandating the land purchase, Huddleston said.

“We would have had to buy some residential structures, which we do not have the money to buy,” said Huddleston, noting that the federal and state governments don’t have the funding to make such purchases either. “They are not going to make it mandatory if they don’t think it’s a real safety concern.”

If funding was available to buy any property at the request of a resident in the runway protection zone, the city would look to buying the land, Huddeston said.

“We will probably always have budget constraints,” said Huddleston, who doubts airport neighbors will face any increase of risk because of a longer runway. “It doesn’t mean anything. They can go about with their lives just as they are going to own their homes for the rest of their lives.”

Huddleston said he’s had aircraft based at the airport for 32 years and only recalls one time where one crash landed near homes on Dover Street.

“I live close to the airport in Bradford Place, and it’s not a concern,” Huddleston said.

The airport needs an upgrade to reflect growth, Huddleston said.

“Our based aircraft growth parallels Rutherford County population growth,” Huddleston said.

The county reached a population of 262,604 in 2010 after being at 182,023 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census. The city’s 2010 U.S. Census reached a population count of 108,755 after being at 68,816 in 2000.

The airport has 135 aircraft that are based there, and typically has 54,000 take off or landing operations each year, Gehrke said.

About 60 percent of the operations involve MTSU student flight training, added Gehrke, who doesn’t expect more from the university unless the demand for pilots increases.

The airport manager projects that the longer runway will only lead to a slight initial increase in business flight operations. Some companies will be able to fly their jets to the airport to have executives check on their operations in Murfreesboro, Gehrke added.

MTSU flights

The longer runway will benefit MTSU in particular by allowing the university to eventually replace its King Air 200 aircraft that seats 12 with a Jetstream 31 aircraft that seats 19, Gehrke said.

The adding seating will make it easier to take teams to events and cut down on the cost of using commercial airlines, Gehrke said.

“As we’ve seen Middle Tennessee go from a regional university to one that’s more nationally known, that’s become more important,” Gehrke said.

The university couldn’t go with the low bid Jetstream 31 aircraft before because the city’s runway wasn’t long enough to meet insurance requirements, Gehrke said.

Airport planning

City airport officials have been working on the upgrade plans since 2008.

To prepare for the runway project, the Airport Commission spent $100,000 on an airport layout plan and another $82,000 on an environmental assessment. State and federal funds covered 90 percent of these studies, and airport revenues covered the other 10 percent.

“We’re completely self-funded,” said Gehrke, noting that the state’s fuel equity fund tax pays for a big part of these projects.

The layout calls for possible upgrades for the next 20 years out, including setting aside more land by the old city soccer fields for MTSU expansion.

“The important part is to have some area dedicated for MTSU in the future,” said Gehrke, who doesn’t foresee the loss of the Parks and Recreation Department playing fields to go away any time soon.

The airport has 101 hangers now, and the layout plan calls for about 14 more in the long-term.

The airport also has spaces for 80 aircraft tie downs (parking), and the layout could expand it to another 30 to 40.

“These could take well over 20 years,” said Gehrke, noting that the city needs to update its airport layout plans every five to 10 years to be eligible for federal funding.

Gehrke expects his 4,000-square-foot terminal in the next five years to expand and add better bathrooms, flight-planning areas, seating and snack stands for travelers.

“The terminal at the airport for many people is the front door to the community,” Gehrke said. “We’d like to see it reflect this growing and dynamic community we have here in Murfreesboro.”

Source:   http://www.dnj.com

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