Wider runway at Arnold Palmer airport depends on FAA funding | TribLIVE.com
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Jeff Himler

The Westmoreland County Airport Authority has a contractor in place to widen the runway at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, but work on the project can’t proceed until federal funding is approved.

The authority Tuesday awarded an $11.9 million contract for the widening project to Golden Triangle Construction, contingent on the Federal Aviation Administration agreeing to fund 95% of the cost. The authority would pay for the remaining 5%.

“We’re hoping to hear before the end of the month,” authority engineer Scott Kunselman said of the funding.

While the start of work will depend on that funding approval, the project is expected to stretch into 2020 at the Unity airport.

Airport officials plan to expand the runway width from 100 feet to 150 feet, adding a 25-foot strip on each edge.

The enlarged runway will provide pilots a wider target when they land in poor weather conditions, officials have said. New 20-foot shoulders are meant to make it easier to remove snow from behind runway lights.

Executive Director Gabe Monzo said the authority has worked out a proposed schedule for the project construction with Spirit Airlines, the sole commercial carrier that offers regular service at the airport.

“We’re going to stay out of Spirit’s way as long as we can with night work,” Monzo said. “It enhances the way we do the project, so everybody is happy.”

Kunselman explained nighttime closures will allow the contractor to widen the northwest edge of the runway, which is the side farthest from the terminal building. That work is projected to continue through August of next year.

Then, in September 2020, he said, a complete shutdown of the runway for 16 days is planned to allow crews to widen the opposite edge of the runway and install new navigation lights.

“When we reopen at the end of September 2020, we will be operating at 150 feet,” Kunselman said.

A related project, proposed for 2021, would strengthen the entire runway by adding a three-inch layer of asphalt, Kunselman said. Also, short taxiways that connect the runway to a parallel taxiway would be relocated.

The airport authority accepted a $115,403 grant from the FAA and awarded it to Richardson Tree and Landscaping for removing vegetation obstructing the runway approach at Rostraver Airport. The work will be completed between November and March, to avoid impacting bats.

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