Monday, May 30, 2016

Lehigh Valley International Airport (KABE) to repave runway, upgrade equipment

Kathryn's Report:

Lehigh Valley International Airport wants to repave its 90,000-square-foot main runway and replace some of its aging, critical equipment such as its fire rescue vehicle.

The upgrades, which will cost millions, had been shelved for years while the airport’s authority paid off a $16 million judgment ordered two decades ago.

The go-ahead for the improvements comes after a plan to build a $335 million FedEx Ground mega-hub near the airport was finalized. The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority sold 260 acres to a developer for the project for $9.8 million.

“Now we have funds to put in the bank and catch up on deferred maintenance,” said Charles Everett, executive director of the authority. “We’ve just been in a holding pattern where we haven’t been able to make the investment we need to. This is a really critical part.”

The airport also could seek to make more revenue by building and leasing more hangars and selling or leasing more land, he added.

The surface of the primary runway, which is nearly 600 feet long and 150 feet wide, needs to be rehabilitated. Construction should begin next year, and the design alone could cost about $1 million, he said.

The airport, which is in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, also wants to replace its rescue firefighting vehicle and snow removal equipment.

“We are going to try to stretch those dollars as far as they will go,” Everett said. “We have to really strategically allocate these resources.”

The improvements and upgrades will be costly for the airport, which is always trying to find sources of nonaeronautical revenue.

“Every day we are looking at addressing opportunities for generating revenue, entering agreements with investors within the next several months,” Everett said.

He said he has recently seen revenue savings to the airport since it took over the airport advertising contract from Clear Channel Airports, keeping it in-house. The move allows LVIA to directly speak to advertisers and local businesses, which is important to the airport, he said.

Everett joined the airport authority in late 2011, the same year the authority received the most recent judicial order to pay $16 million by 2015.

The judge made several recommendations for the airport to generate revenue, including selling real estate and raising parking fees, Everett said.

“It’s been a long road,” Everett said. “My entire tenure has been dealing with this issue. …

“When you look at the [FedEx] real estate sale, it helps us find long-term stability.”

While the judgment was a heavy cloud over the airport authority for years, the completion of the FedEx land sale signals a potential reversal of fortune.

“Our traffic activity is up in terms of passengers and cargo. … When the economy does well, more people travel,” Everett said.

Airport officials are continually meeting with carriers in the hopes of acquiring more airlines to LVIA, but air service development remains a challenge, he added.

Original article can be found here:

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