Trucks are rolling and the dust is blowing as the first of two major construction projects gets under way at the Kenai Municipal Airport.
When the dust settles, the airport will have a new taxiway as long as the entire runway, and the runway will be moved north a couple hundred feet and be completely resurfaced.
Alaska Road Builders already has begun work on the new extended taxiway, and the runway project is expected to go out for bids Monday.
As part of the runway project, the airport’s float plane landing basin also will be lengthened 1,000 feet, enabling it to accommodate commercial float planes such as Twin Otters, according to Rebecca Cronkhite, airport manager.
The cost of the taxiway project is $2,204,456, said Cronkhite, and the estimated cost of the runway project is $10 million.
Funded mostly through Federal Aviation Administration grants, the construction will cost the city of Kenai $55,112 for the taxiway and 2.5 percent of the final runway cost currently estimated to be $250,000.
At present, the taxiway parallels about two-thirds of the length of the runway and will be lengthened the remaining one-third at the south end.
Kenai’s runway points to magnetic north, which is a 22-degree deviation from true north because of Kenai’s close proximity to the North Pole, according to Cronkhite.
The runway project was precipitated by an FAA requirement that runways have a 1,000 foot long safety zone at each end of the runway.
Kenai’s city cemetery is only 800 feet from the south end of the runway.
Additionally, an FAA runway pavement viability assessment indicated Kenai’s runway should have been replaced three years ago, according to Cronkhite.
“The project’s been planned for eight years,” she said.
In order to meet the safety zone requirement, Kenai will add 250 feet to the north end of the runway, putting the south end 250 feet into the safety zone.
The active length of the runway will remain the same at 7,585 feet.
The extension on the north end pushes the safety zone on that end further out into a marshy area, according to Cronkhite, so sand will be mined from the float plane basin to be used to firm up the north safety zone.
“The FAA requires the safety zone to be stabilized so if an aircraft overruns the runway, it will not incur significant structural damage,” Cronkhite said.
Mining the sand from the float plane basin results in the added benefit of extending the basin. Additionally, the topsoil that is removed will be hauled away for use at the new soccer fields being built by the city at the north end of town.
When the runway is closed for construction for about three months next year, the new taxiway will be used as Kenai’s temporary runway.
“The taxiway will be better than most runways in Alaska,” Cronkhite said.
The new taxiway will be 6,025 feet long and 75 feet wide.
When the new runway is complete, Cronkhite said the Kenai airport “will accommodate just about everything up to a 747 (jet aircraft).”
“This runway will service anything Kenai will need for the next 20 years,” she said. “It’s perfect for 757s and 737s.”
Twenty-foot-wide safety areas along both sides of the new runway will also be paved and all new lighting will be installed.
That includes the little blue lights, the white runway lights and the approach lights, Cronkhite said.
Fencing around the north end of the runway also will need to be reconfigured.
“Wherever possible, they will reuse the existing fencing material,” Cronkhite said.
Emergency access roads will also be put in at the north end for fire trucks and other emergency response vehicles.
Cronkhite said Wince, Corthell and Bryson, the Kenai engineering firm overseeing the project, will make a public presentation about it to the Kenai City Council at its May 17 meeting.
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