Infrastructure bill helps move forward airport expansion

·3 min read

Jan. 26—Officials with the Daviess County Airport have landed some extra dollars that will apparently clear the way for a long-awaited runway expansion. The Daviess County Airport Board of Commissioners are heading next month to a meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration in hopes of getting the final approval on the project.

"Our plans are all laid out," said President of the Airport Board of Commissioners Brian Walker.

The airport board is looking to add 201 feet to the current runway. That would make it 5,001 feet long and would clear the way for larger aircraft to fly in and out of the facility.

The cost of the project is estimated around $1.3 million. While the airport board will be covering about $800,000 of the cost with their own accumulated funds, about $500,000 is expected to come in the form of a grant from the FAA.

"That money is coming from the Infrastructure Bill that was passed by Congress," said Walker. "It was a welcome surprise."

Last fall, Daviess County attempted to carry out the expansion with their own money, but the FAA turned down the plan saying that runway extension was not enough. The taxiway would also need to be extended.

"The grant gives us the money to do both the runway and taxiway extension," said Walker. "We hope now we are in a position to get this approved."

One thing that is still pending is an agreement to put a 3.5 acre buffer zone at the end of the runway. The Daviess County Commissioners have approved a letter of support to get that hurdle finished.

"They are in negotiations with the land owner right now for possibly a purchase or a land swap for that piece of land," said Daviess County Commissioner Nathan Gabhart. "They need to show that all involved are on board with getting that land purchased. It looks like it will be worked out between the airport board and the land owner but you know sometimes these deals don't work out on time. We may not need it, but we should have a letter ready to go to support the project."

Government, airport and business leaders have pushed for the expansion for years. They point out that while they might be adding a few hundred feet to the runway the action can provide big consequences for businesses in the county.

"This has been an arduous process, but it appears to be about done," said Walker. "It will be a big move for the airport. It will help open up the airport for the larger planes that our current businesses have, and open us to opportunities involving new businesses."

"It seems like the larger the company, the larger the planes they fly," said Commissioner Ron Arnold. "When you look at what is happening at WestGate there are some good size companies now up there and this would make things more convenient for them and that makes things better as those companies look to expand."