One of two runways at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport will be rebuilt next year, thus avoiding the possibility that it might have been closed forever for safety reasons.

The airport has received $6.7 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for 93 percent of the project.

Revenue from passenger facility charges of $4.50 per ticket on commercial passenger departures from Lewiston will cover the remainder, said interim airport Manager Clarence W. “Bill” McKown Jr.

The project will start in the middle of April and be finished by the end of next summer. The surface of the runway has deteriorated so much it is rated as poor, one category above failure, which requires the runway to be closed.

“This is the best thing (that’s happened) since I’ve been here,” McKown said.

The runway that will be redone is the oldest at the airport and is too short to accommodate planes used by the airport’s only commercial passenger carrier, SkyWest.

But it serves a key role. The majority of the planes arriving and departing from the airport use it, including ones carrying packages for FedEx and United Parcel Service.

The pilots of many of those planes prefer it because its approach path requires them to be in the iciest part of the atmosphere in the winter for less time than the longer runway, said Gary Peters, an airport board member.

Plus, if one of those planes were to have an accident, SkyWest could still operate its Salt Lake City flights without interruptions since those arrivals and departures are on the longer runway.

In spite of the importance of the runway to the airport, it has taken two years of intense negotiations with the FAA to win funding for the project, which was one of McKown’s top priorities.

The reconstructed runway will have a new water drainage system that is anticipated to help extend its life. One taxiway will be redone to meet new FAA rules that require taxiways to have turns before they reach a runway.

“That little delay is enough time to take care of a security threat,” McKown said.

But the shorter runway won’t be as wide or as long after it’s refurbished.

It will be 75 feet wide and 4,750 feet long, instead of 100 feet wide and 5,000 feet long. The smaller size is all that the FAA would support since the runway isn’t used by commercial passenger planes, Peters said.

Airport officials considered maintaining the existing width with local money, but an estimate indicated that would cost almost $1 million, which the airport doesn’t have.

The runway had to be shortened because its safety zone overlapped with the one for the longer runway.

The only other way to remedy that would have been to extend the shorter runway outside the existing boundaries of the airport, which would have required reconfiguring O’Conner Road and Bryden Canyon Golf Course. That option was so complicated the airport didn’t get an estimate.

“It didn’t many any sense,” Peters said.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

The Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport Authority board will hold a public hearing on its annual budget at 5:30 p.m. today.

The meeting will be held in the second-floor conference room of the airport terminal at 406 Burrell Ave., Lewiston.

The board will accept public comments about its proposed $880,222 operations budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Recommended for you