Muskegon Extending Runway

March 17, 2006
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MUSKEGON — Airplanes will soon have a longer runway to use during the winter at the Muskegon County Airport, thanks to a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The grant will allow the airport to come in line with safety standards that will be enforced beginning in 2007.

The main runway used at the airport during the winter months is only 5,000 feet long, with no safety area. The new safety standards will require the runway to have a 1,000-foot safety area in case a plane would overshoot the landing or run into problems.

“What this project is doing is bringing that runway into compliance,” said Marty Piette, airport manager.

Though the airport does have one runway that is 6,500 feet, it can be difficult to use in the winter because of its location. Paul Roy, director of public facilities, said crosswinds from the lake can cause problems for planes.

“That should give us a much better capacity for an all-weather airport,” he said of the project. “What this will allow is for the planes to be able to land when the weather’s not so good.”

The runway will be moved back with another 1,100 feet of pavement added, which also will to allow planes to bring in more cargo.

“First and foremost, it improves the safety of the airport,” he said.

It also improves accessibility for airplanes that might not have had enough room to land when snow shortened the runway, Piette said.

“The residual effect is making the airport more accessible year-round,” he said.

If the airport is more accessible, Piette said, it will attract more business and stimulate the economy in the region.

Piette said the shorter runway has not caused safety problems, but the grant will help to prevent possible situations from arising.

“Each individual airline, they make their own determination of what kinds of conditions they can land in, but the longer the runway, the better,” he said.

Despite having difficulty with the runways in winter, Piette said he does not think it has cost the airport.

“I don’t think we lose business,” he said. “The people that are coming here are coming here for a reason.”

Piette said the grant is expected to be issued this summer and construction will begin soon after. Phase I will include work on Ellis and Grand Haven roads. The intersection of the two roads will be closed, Grand Haven Road will be relocated to the east, and Ellis will become a cul-de-sac. Utilities will also be relocated and a perimeter road will be constructed.

Access to the airport will be on Sternberg Road following construction, Piette said.

Following site preparation, construction on the runway and associated taxiways will be completed in 2007.

“Our goal is to have this wrapped up and done by the end of calendar year 2007,” he said.

The project, which has been in the works for five years, will also be funded by $1.7 million from the federal government, $150,000 in state money, and $150,000 from the county. The total project cost is about $6 million.    

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