The last bit of pavement has been laid for the Gary/Chicago International Airport runway extension, following the pouring of 22,011 cubic yards of concrete during the past two years, according to airport officials.
And in the most recent sign of confidence the expanded Gary airport runway will open June 25 as planned, the airport is scheduling a July 10 invitation-only “opening ceremony” on the day before the Gary Air Show.
“This project has come a long way and we are now at the finish line,” said interim Airport Director Dan Vicari. “The runway expansion project will open on time as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
The day before the air show is a day usually set aside for viewing the arrival of acts like the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. But this year, the airport plans to gather 150 high-ranking public officials” for a news conference, tour and lunch, according to an invitation from Vicari.
The opening ceremony will commemorate a transformational initiative that will have long-lasting economic benefits for the city of Gary for years to come, Vicari said.
The $174.1 million runway expansion will lengthen the main runway to 8,900 feet from its current 7,000 feet, allowing it to handle larger planes. It will also add federally mandated safety zones to each end.
The last construction projects now underway deal mainly with environmental remediation, said airport spokeswoman Emily Tapia-Lopez. Planes have been able to use the current 7,000-foot runway without interruption during the expansion project.
The airport expansion has proceeded in fits and starts since 2006, when U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., secured $58 million in federal funding for the project. It picked up steam during the past two years as the airport was able to ink agreements with railroads to move their tracks out of the way of the expansion.
The airport is seeking sponsorships ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to help pay for the opening ceremony, according to the invitation from Vicari.
The Gary Air Show will open the day after the runway expansion, returning to Gary after a two-year absence.