NEW HAVEN >> The little airport that desperately needs more runway length to be successful may some day soon by able to reclaim an additional 400 feet of long-ago paved runway that’s already there.
For years, Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, with a relatively short 5,600-foot main runway, has been further constrained by various obstructions in the take-off and landing path that have caused authorities to artificially limit the length of the runway even further.
Because of the obstructions, which have resulted in the Federal Aviation Administration giving Tweed’s runway a “displaced threshold” designation, that 5,600-foot runway effectively is an even shorter 5,200 feet for landings.
But after years of working with airport neighbors and utility companies to address that issue, Tweed now is getting close hopefully to being able to resolve it, officials say.
This week, the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority gave its management company, AFCO AvPORTS Management, unanimous approval to spend up to $250,000 for design and construction of a project to finally address the issue.
It would include a necessary aeronautical survey to determine where Tweed stands.
AvPORTS would front the money, to be repaid from Tweed’s annual $140,000-per-year passenger facility charge.
Also on Wednesday, the authority unanimously approved the hiring of Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, which has an existing agreement to provide engineering services for other Tweed projects, to do work on the displaced-threshold project for “an amount not to exceed $143,240.”
Airport Manager Diane Jackson called it an important first step, telling the Tweed authority, “This is extremely critical for the forward movement of the airport ... We have to prove to FAA that we’ve removed the obstructions ... so they can move the threshold back,” she said.
“It’s the first step to show” potential airlines, as well as American Airlines, which already serves Tweed with American Eagle service to Philadelphia — and which Tweed has been trying to persuade to fly jets on Tweed routes — “that effectively we’re doing everything,” Jackson said Thursday.
“We’re optimistic that it will improve performance for our existing carrier,” she said.
“Basically, we’re hiring Hoyle Tanner & Associates to go out and perform an aeronautical survey,” she said. The last time such a survey was done was 2007 “and we’ve been working since then” to try to remove obstructions to address the displaced-threshold issue, she said.
Jackson and Tweed authority Executive Director Tim Larson both said they expect the survey to find that Tweed’s obstructions are down to “a couple” of trees and utility poles.
“Effectively, we’re going to do a survey to see what we’ve done and what still needs to be done,” Larson said.
Larson said eliminating the displaced threshold, unlike physical runway extension — which the authority also has considered — “is not going to change the pavement” that’s already there. “It’s going to change the landing markings.”
The obstructions essentially “are trees that have grown up in the neighborhood,” as well as “some utility poles.” Tweed is owned by New Haven but located both in New Haven and East Haven. The obstructions are in both.
To get this far, “I’ve negotiated with roughly 250 property owners on either end,” Larson said.
In addition, the authority convinced United Illuminating to lower the height of some of its utility polls, including six along one string of power cables on South End Road, which is in New Haven but very close to the East Haven border, he said.
At this point, “we’re down to a handful of folks that I’m working with,” he said. “We haven’t settled on a number.”
But just in case the negotiations don’t work out, “we’re looking at possibly a state process that would require them to do that,” Larson, referring to allowing Tweed to pay them in order to trim or remove their trees.
Asked how that might happen, and whether it might include seeking to pass any new state statutes, Larson said, “there are rules on the books. We’ve already contacted the state.”
The state “has asked us to try to work this out on a volunteer basis, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Larson said. “But once we’re done with this survey,” there is “a state process that would allow us to compensate them and cut their trees,” he said.