November 30, 2011 By Susan Schrock
ARLINGTON — More than 100 acres of public land will open for private development after the city builds a wider, stronger taxiway next year on the west side of Arlington Municipal Airport.
The 4,900-foot taxiway will open the airport to heavier types of aircraft and also provide an alternative to the main runway. The new infrastructure will also make the city more competitive when bidding on private commercial projects, officials said.
“Without access to the runway, a company is not going to look to our west side for development,” airport Assistant Manager Karen VanWinkle said.
Though the west taxiway has long been planned, two recently awarded federal grants enable the city to make the improvements years earlier than expected, airport Manager Bob Porter said. Construction is expected to begin next spring.
$7.8 million project
The west taxiway, which will be 75 feet wide and able to carry 49.5 tons, is part of $7.8 million in improvements expected to begin next year. The city received $6.4 million in grants from the Texas Department of Transportation and will contribute $1.4 million.
Other plans include installing new runway and taxiway signs, moving the southernmost taxiway, and improving grading and drainage, officials said.
The airport, which has 23 businesses, brings in more than $250,000 annually in land lease revenue, not counting hangar rentals, tie-down parking fees or office space rental at the new terminal building. But the east side of the airport, where most of those businesses are, is about 80 percent built-out.
Developing the west side could bring an additional $250,000 or more in annual land lease revenue as more aviation-related companies come in, Porter said.
Charles Fisher, who operates Fisher Aviation Services at the airport, said he’s hopeful that the new lease space will attract a large aircraft maintenance facility.
“I can’t get more than two airplanes in a hangar. That is really limiting to my growth,” Fisher said of the existing maintenance hangar space. “They need at least one major maintenance facility.”
‘This is a really good thing for us’
Arlington had anticipated designing and building the taxiway between 2012 and 2015 as funding became available. With the grant funding, the taxiway could be complete by late next year or early 2013, Porter said.
“It’s significantly brought the project up for a quicker time frame. This is a really good thing for us,” Porter said.
The new taxiway will be able to handle 75 to 80 percent of the airport’s typical traffic if the main runway is closed, VanWinkle said.
Planes now must be diverted or forced to wait to land or take off during closures.
“Being a single-runway airport, it’s a hindrance and a significant economic hit to our businesses when our runway shuts down,” VanWinkle said.
During construction, sections of the runway will be temporarily closed, but Porter said the airport would try to do so only at night.
“We have businesses who rely on this runway for their livelihood,” he said. “We want as much uninterrupted services for our tenants as possible.”
Any work that could affect the runway is expected to be complete before next football season because of the increasing number of planes that arrive with fans going to Cowboys Stadium, Porter said.
The airport is one of 11 reliever airports in Dallas-Fort Worth. Increasing Arlington’s capacity for planes helps reduce pressure on major airports, Porter said.
Source: FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM