GONZALES — Louisiana Regional Airport in Ascension Parish has been awarded $4.1 million in state and federal grants to extend the general aviation airport’s runaway by 1,000 feet and related improvements.
The additions will make the existing north-south runaway 5,000 feet long, putting the airport in the Burnside area south of Interstate 10 on high altitude aviation maps, improving prospects to sell jet fuel and benefitting businesses moving into the parish, airport officials said.
Bradley Brandt, state Department of Transportation and Development director of aviation, said Friday the $3.8 million federal portion of the grant is the largest received by the airport. He said the airport has received $9.5 million in state and federal grants in the past seven years.
Airport officials said the existing 4,000-foot runway means aircraft fly under penalty — meaning they cannot takeoff at full capacity and so they buy less fuel, a revenue source for the airport. Aircraft also avoid the airport and head to New Orleans or Baton Rouge because of the penalty, officials said.
“So economically, this is going to be a benefit to those business that are coming in, the business here in Ascension and, of course, the airport itself,” Janet Gonzales, airport manager, told the Ascension Parish Council during a meeting Thursday night.
The airport earns 10 cents on every gallon of fuel pumped at the airport.
She added that most pilots of corporate jets do not know the airport exists because it is not on the high altitude charts. But she said the longer runway will not change the kind of aircraft able to land at the airport.
Brandt said the federal grant comes from the Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program. The state matching funds, about $397,000, come from the Aviation Trust Fund, which comes from a 4-cent tax on aviation fuel sales.
Gonzales said Friday the project will extend the runaway to the south over the Panama Canal where culverts were placed in an earlier project, though other drainage improvements are planned this time.
She said the runaway is expected to be closed just two days: one day to shorten the threshold at the end of the runaway so it operates as a 3,000-foot-long landing strip during construction and another day to shift the threshold back when the project is done.
She said the runway work is expected to take five months while taxiway improvements may take another three months, depending on a developing, unrelated project to reconstruct part of the existing taxiway.
Gonzales said she received word Sept. 13 that airport would receive the grants — the focus of years of work — and signed the formal paperwork Tuesday.
She said the project was bid out in advance of the grant award and she plans to sign construction contracts as early as this week .
“And then we’ll be turning dirt,” Gonzales said.