Rocky road on runway realignment finally evening out

Bremerton National Airport may be off-limits to larger corporate aircraft for most of next year but, in general, airport owner Port of Bremerton is pleased with the way its runway alignment project is progressing.

The proposed realignment, mandated by the FAA, has been causing the port headaches since design work got underway in 2002. Phantom trout in the airport’s stormwater handling system, higher environmental standards and other problems finally forced the port to split the work in two phases and stretch the project into 2005 — original estimates expected the work to be done by the end of this summer.

The construction work itself is expected to be relatively simple. Because the current runway comes far too close to State Route 3 at its north end, posing a safety risk for both planes and cars, the port plans to dig up approximately 147,000 square feet of the runway and 49,000 square feet of the adjacent taxiway and then pave a similar area south of the runway. The project effectively moves the runway several hundred feet to the south, eliminating the safety risk.

The realignment is expected to bring the facility into compliance with FAA regulations, which require a minimum 500-foot by 1,000-foot area of clearance at both ends of the runway.

Work on the $4.5 million project, which is being almost entirely funded by the FAA, is expected to commence in late August. Crews will do all the preliminary work this summer, saving the actual runway work for next summer. The idea is to limit the amount of time portions of the runway have tobe shut down — per federal regulations, construction crews have to have a safety zone to protect them from passing planes.

While work is going on, the port will have to shorten the runway by more than 1,000 feet, leaving only 4,000 of usable runway. Although this will not affect the smaller planes which most commonly use the airport, larger corporate jets do show up on a regular basis and Powercats, a plane manufacturer based at the airport, will have to work around the restrictions as well.

Airport manager Fred Salisbury estimated that any plane 60,000 pounds or more would either have to detour to a different airport or lighten its load by carrying fewer passengers or leaving its fuel tanks part-empty. He said he doesn’t know whether those restrictions will cause problems for Powercats, given that the closure is still a year away.

“They don’t know what kind of plane the client’s going to buy, so we don’t know what kind of jet we’re talking about,” Salisbury said.

Other issues, including the rising cost of oil, which may affect asphalt prices, are expected to remain minor, Salisbury said.

“Things are finally smoothing out on this project,” he added.

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