Only a few days after the announcement of a $225,000 grant for new fuel tanks, the city received notice of nearly a million dollars of new funding for the Tri-City Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration will give the city $916,259 for a new parallel taxiway that will connect the existing taxiway with the airport’s runway.
“Everybody’s excited about it. It’s just a big improvement,” David Christy, airport manager, said.
The work will be performed in 2021 but bid out this year. It will likely follow the installation of two new fuel tanks that will be purchased with a Kansas Department of Transportation grant announced on Jan. 30. The city also wrapped up a project last year that resealed the runway and replaced the beacon using an FAA grant.
Christy, who manages the city-owned airport through his company, Galaxy FBO, said the new taxiway will allow pilots to get on and off the runway quicker. Larger planes especially tie up the runway as the pilots use it as a taxiway after landing.
The city is using three years of FAA entitlement money to construct the new concrete taxiway that will be about 900 feet long and 35 feet wide, but that amounts to only about $450,000. Cities are not allowed to bank more than three years of FAA funding.
Darrell Moyer, director of engineering and public works, said the city was able to work with FAA’s Kansas airport planner, Jason Knipp, to secure the rest of the funding. Abilene, Oakley and Allen County were not using their money, so the FAA allotted $150,000 from each community to the Parsons project. Moyer said the Kansas Department of Transportation aviation program also helped get the funding because the agency likes to keep FAA money in the state when possible.
The city will have to match 10% of the funding, and Moyer said the city budgeted for that amount this year in anticipation of the possibility of garnering the FAA money.
“We’re fast-tracking this project,” Moyer said.
The taxiway had been in the city’s airport improvement plan, and Burns McDonnell engineering firm already had a preliminary design. The company surveyed the airport last week to determine the layout. Moyer said the city staff plans to take bids in May. Under the terms of the FAA funding, a bid must be approved this year, although construction can be done in 2021.
Eventually, the city wants to reconstruct the original taxiway, and having the parallel taxiway in place will allow the airport to continue operating with a taxiway while that work is done.
The parallel taxiway also will make it quicker for planes to get off the runway after landing and just make airplane traffic safer, Moyer said. The project will be the largest one at the airport since the runway was rebuilt about 15 years ago. Moyer said Christy and the board have been trying to grow the airport, and the taxiway will be a big part of that effort.
“I know he’s excited about the project, and I know it’s something the airport board has been wanting to see for years,” Moyer said.
Christy said the taxiway will bring a lot of convenience to pilots, especially those piloting larger aircraft because they will have more room to maneuver, allowing them to get off the runway quicker. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally two planes will come in about the same time. One pilot will have to slow down to allow time for the first plane to taxi off the runway.
The airport board cited safety concerns and traffic congestion as the reason to end the airport’s annual September fly-in, a popular event for the community, after 2018 following an eight-year run. Moyer said the city staff hopes the fly-in can continue after the new taxiway is complete.
Ryan Lorton, a Burns McDonnell engineer, said the city will be able to pursue edge lighting for the taxiway also. The standard is reflectors or lighting, and Lorton said lighting will at least be included as an alternate to the bid.