Saturday, March 29, 2014

Closed Marco Island airport set to reopen April 14 with rebuilt runway

MARCO ISLAND — The Marco Island Executive Airport is on schedule to reopen April 14 with a rebuilt runway as part of a $6.2 million overhaul.

Ninety percent of the cost of the 90-day project that began in mid-January is covered by a Federal Aviation Administration grant, with the remaining 10 percent coming from the Florida Department of Transportation.

“As of now, we’re on schedule,” said Immokalee Regional Airport Manager Thomas Vergo, filling in at the Marco Island airport while its manager, Bob Tweedie, is on vacation. “Right now we’re in the process of repaving the new runway, doing the final grading on the ramp area before it’s repaved and sodding the sides of the runway.”

The airport’s ramp will receive a fresh prime coat and new asphalt, while the 5,000-foot by 100-foot runway on Mainsail Drive is undergoing a complete rehabilitation, Vergo said.

The completed project will have 12 inches of subgrade material, a 6-inch limerock base and layers of asphalt on top, Vergo said.

Upon reopening, the Marco airport will institute a series of nighttime closures after 30 days have elapsed to groove the runway to help with drainage, Vergo said.

The Marco airport hosts an estimated 20,000 takeoffs and landings annually, with 70 percent of its traffic coming between Christmas and Easter. In season, that’s about 3,000 takeoffs and landings per month.

Air traffic has been diverted to Immokalee Regional Airport, Everglades Airpark and Naples Municipal Airport during the shutdown.

In addition to the runway project, the Marco Island airport is undertaking other upgrades, Vergo said.

“We’re going have LED runway edge lighting now, which is a lot more energy efficient and reliable” than the old halogen lighting, he said. “The (previous) lighting system was very old, and the fixtures were getting corroded. We’re in a very corrosive environment, surrounded by brackish saltwater on three sides and subject to tidal flow, and it was just time to upgrade the lights.”

The airport also will employ a new emergency backup generator for runway, taxiway and edge lights, Vergo said.

Vergo said the Marco airport’s five full-time employees have been kept busy in the interim.

“They’re assisting at the Immokalee and Everglades airports and doing projects at the Marco terminal,” he said. “Repainting, flooring work, landscaping, equipment maintenance — upgrading the facility and maintaining it.”

Tweedie previously said the Marco airport is undertaking the project during the height of tourist season for two reasons — low elevation of the site means avoiding rainy season, and crocodile nesting season.

“The areas at the north and east ends of the runway are adjacent to wetlands that are federally protected, and our grant stipulates that no work can be done during crocodile nesting season, which begins March 1 and goes until September,” Tweedie has said.