Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Airport plan public review set for March 8

Submitted Photo - An aerial view of the Collin County Regional Airport from the north shows a new runway under construction. The runway will have a four-inch asphalt base coat that will be covered with 17 inches of steel-reinforced concrete.

Collin County is growing rapidly in population, and the Collin County Regional Airport must grow rapidly with it.

McKinney city officials and members of the McKinney Airport Development Corporation (MADC) have been aware of this for several years, and continue to work diligently to see that the airport grows in such a way to meet the growing needs of the county and region.

An Airport Layout Plan has just been completed, and the MADC and its agent, Kimley-Horn Associates, will be offering stakeholders and the public an opportunity to view the plan during a public viewing between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, March 8 at McKinney City Hall.

"The plan illustrates the organization's vision for the future layout of the Collin County Regional Airport to include short-, mid- and long-term projects that may be implemented as demand and funding availability dictate," said Ken Wiegand, MADC executive director.

The plan identifies the location and footprint of a General Aviation Terminal complex, additional aircraft hangars, vehicle parking expansion, a second future runway and taxiway to access the airport's east side, on-and-off airport access roads and future runway extensions.

There will not be a formal presentation at the March 8 review, but airport staff and planners will be on hand to discuss the plan and answer questions.

"With the completion of the runway project later this year, we will have completed a $66 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that began in 2002 with a master plan update," Wiegand said. "The CIP was designed to upgrade and repair existing infrastructure and focus on preparing the airport for operations by transport aircraft. A new CIP will be drafted from the soon-to-be-approved Airport Layout Plan, which is simply a brief update of the master plan of 2002-04."

Wiegand added, "The airport will no doubt seek additional federal funds in the future to support the new CIP."

The McKinney City Council is expected to vote on the proposed Airport Layout Plan sometime in March.

Six McKinney officials, including four representing the city of McKinney and two representing the MADC, spent two days in Washington, D.C. in mid-February briefing top senior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials and four members of Congress from North Texas on the status of the airport capital development program.

They included Wiegand, MADC Chairman John Wroten, Mayor Brian Loughmiller, Mayor Pro Tem Travis Ussery, Councilman Roger Harris and City Manager Jason Gray. They flew out early on Feb. 15 and returned late on Feb. 16.

"We thought face-to-face communication with members of the administration and legislative branches of government would enhance our efforts to seek funding through existing programs of financial assistance when we need it," Wiegand said.

He said the FAA has invested $24.9 million so far in improvements at the airport, and MADC officials anticipate that the FAA will provide another $4 million this year. The state has invested $8.6 million and the city of McKinney has provided $13 million, which includes about $4.2 million from the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) for the runway's additional width and weight-bearing capacity. The improvements are needed to meet airline standards and support the operations by heavy transport aircraft.

The FAA has also invested $1.5 million from its federal control tower construction funding program. The city of McKinney has provided about $750,000 to replace a short, temporary wooden structure with a 100-foot modern tower from which air traffic can be controlled on the new runway and on areas of anticipated future development.

"We are well into the third phase of a three-phase runway construction project," Wiegand said. "The new runway should be operational by August 2012, and the project is scheduled to be complete by Thanksgiving 2012."

He said the new runway is a replacement runway, which once operational will turn the existing runway into a parallel taxiway.

"The runway is being constructed after five years of environmental studies and the collection of multi-year funding grants from FAA and TxDOT," Wiegand said. "Its purpose is to meet federal safety design standards and accommodate larger aircraft."

He said the existing runway was rehabilitated in 2007 and can now accommodate operations by Boeing 737 aircraft, the kind flown by Southwest and other major airlines.

"Our new 7,000-foot runway is also being constructed to accommodate a 1,500-foot extension when demand dictates," Wiegand said. "Length plus the weight-bearing capacity will dramatically enhance our capabilities to handle most transport aircraft operating in the world today."

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