Positive impact of runway extension

Hugh Rafferty/Improving North County Santa Maria Times | Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:00 am

The Santa Maria Public Airport District has initiated a major expansion — runway 12-30 is being extended 1,700 feet to the northwest.

When complete, the main runway will be 8,004 feet long. In addition to increasing the safe operation of aircraft that currently use the facility, including the U.S. Forest Service fleet, corporate jets that frequent the airport, and the commercial operations of Allegiant Air and United Express, the runway will also be capable of supporting longer flights utilizing the longer takeoff distance available.

The first phase of the improvement project will continue through the end of April 2011. During this phase, construction crews will focus on relocation of perimeter fencing, installation of storm drainage improvements and on airfield electrical upgrades.

The major component of this first phase is construction of the parallel taxiway extension, including lighting.

Phase two of construction activity will begin in June. This effort will be more intense, focusing on the runway extension itself. Improvements will include the paved runway extension, re-marking of the entire runway, the installation of airfield guidance signs, and the installation of runway edge lights along the extension.

The second phase will also include extensive upgrades and relocations of airport navigation aids, the components that facilitate the actual landing of aircraft under less-than-perfect visibility conditions.

Much of the work of this second phase will occur at night, reducing — to the extent possible — impacts to ongoing airport operations and commercial service. All proposed improvements are being constructed on existing Santa Maria Airport property.

Construction of phase one is being accomplished by Granite Construction, operating out of its Santa Maria office. In addition to Granite, several subcontractors, the materials testing lab, the construction surveyor and the inspecting team, including biological monitors and the construction manager, are all from the Central Coast.

All major construction materials, including concrete aggregate base and asphalt pavement, will be produced locally, and trucked to the site using local trucks and drivers. Additionally, precast concrete drainage structures installed on the project will be produced in Santa Maria.

Granite Construction has estimated that a total of 12,600 hours will be required to complete Phase one. On average, including all support staff and truck drivers, it is estimated that 30 people per day will be working on this project.

The entire construction effort, including both phases, is estimated to be $12 million. The economic benefit multiplier for public infrastructure spending is widely believed to range from 1.5 to 6.2.

At an average of 3.8, investment in the construction of the runway extension has the potential to provide $42 million in commerce to the local economy. This does not include any of the potential increase in business activity to the airport and the Central Coast once the extended runway is placed in service late next fall.

The project is being funded through several grants from the FAA, with grant match funds provided by the Santa Maria Public Airport District, which continues in its forward-thinking vision for the airport and the central coast.

Hugh Rafferty is chairman of the Committee to Improve North County, and president of the Santa Maria Public Airport District board of directors. Thanks to Chris Hastert, airport district general manager, and John Smith, project engineer, for providing the information contained in this commentary.

Posted in Commentary on Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:00 am

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