PLYMOUTH – Plymouth Municipal Airport is about to expand.
Work is slated to begin this fall on a 1,000-foot runway extension that will enable the airport to direct more air traffic along north and south approaches.
Runway 15/33, the north/south runway, will expand from 3,350 feet to 4,350 feet, the length of Runway 6/24, the airport’s east/west runway.
The project is primarily funded by the federal government, through taxes on aviation fuel and airline ticket sales.
A $7.1 million federal Department of Transportation grant will cover 90 percent of the cost. The state Department of Transportation and the airport will split the remaining 10 percent of the cost.
Airport Manager Tom Maher said work is expected to start in October and should continue through the spring. Lawrence-Lynch Corp. of Barnstable is the apparent low bidder for the project. The company has done work at the airport in the past.
The expansion comes eight years after the local Airport Commission first proposed expanding the airport.
The commission originally proposed expanding Runway 6/24, the east/west runway, to 5,000 feet in 2007. After objections from neighbors, a compromise plan provided for the Runway 15/33 expansion instead.
In addition to adding 1,000 feet to the north/south runway, the project will add 300-foot emergency stopways to both runaways.
The north/south runway will expand to the south, crossing a one-acre strip of wetlands. The project will compensate for the intrusion by recreating three acres of wetlands just to the west of the runway.
Maher said the north/south runway will be closed during some of the construction.
But once the new runway opens, it will begin taking on an equal share of the jet and turboprop traffic that currently uses the east/west runway exclusively.
With both runways the same size, the airport will begin only one at a time. Depending on wind conditions, some smaller planes may use the north/south runway, while the larger planes are using the east/west runway. While there has not been a collision, the upgrade will improve safety, Maher said.
Plymouth Municipal Airport has been in operation since 1934. It started as a small airstrip and was pressed into service as a military strip during World War II. It is currently classified as a B-II airport, which can accommodate aircraft with 74-foot wingspans and approach speeds of up to 110 mph. It will remain a B-II airport after the expansion.
U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. William Keating announced the grant approval earlier this month, noting it as part of a $12 million federal grant package for improvements locally and to airports in New Bedford and Barnstable.
“Regional airports are of vital importance to our local economies, bringing both tourists and commercial goods alike,“ Keating said in a statement. “These grants will ensure that our airports are operating at peak performance for years to come.”