Airport Renovations Continue as Number of Passengers Rises
October 1, 2015
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  • As one Columbia Regional Airport project comes to a close, several are in the planning stages as part of a continued effort to meet federal standards and accommodate more passengers over the next few years.

    The Columbia City Council will vote Monday to authorize street and utility easements for the relocation of Rangeline Road as part of the Runway 13/31 extension project at the airport. The authorizations are some of the final pieces the city needs in place to start the relocation project next month.

    The work is all part of a “master plan” to bring the airport into compliance with new Federal Aviation Administration standards and prepare for larger passenger loads and planes as more people use the airport, Airport Manager Don Elliott said. He said the number of fliers has drastically increased during the past decade.

    In 2005, 19,957 passengers boarded planes at the airport; in 2015, Elliott expects that number to rise to 60,000. As of August, 42,531 passengers have boarded planes this year at Columbia Regional Airport — on pace for reaching an all-time high of 60,000.

    “Columbia Regional contributes about $87 million directly to the Mid-Missouri economy,” Elliott said. “We’re growing and are an important part of” Columbia’s economy.

    The relocation of Rangeline Road will allow for runway rehabilitation, extension and improvements at the airport. The road needs to be realigned so it will not encroach upon a “runway safety area” near a lengthened Runway 13-31. Planning for the runway lengthening will begin in 2016, Public Works Spokesman Steve Sapp said.

    The road project, which the council approved in May, will cost an estimated $1.7 million. The Federal Aviation Administration will reimburse the city 90 percent of the cost through a grant. The city will pay for 10 percent of the project, or $170,000, through the transportation sales tax.

    As the airport prepares to begin the Rangeline Road relocation project, construction crews in excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks are finishing up safety improvements to the intersection of the airport’s two runways. Safety improvements are scheduled for completion next month.

    Sapp said the intersection safety improvements are the “keystone” renovation project for the airport as the city works its way through the master plan. He said it is one of the more challenging projects to plan and execute because construction crews cannot work, and all of the equipment must be out of the way when planes are flying in and out of the airport.

    “Everything else other than” the intersection project “is outside of that zone where we need to be moving crews,” Sapp said.

    While construction continues on the runways, New York-based consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff is also working on an airport terminal master plan, which is a conceptual design for a new terminal. The terminal will likely be located on the north end of the airport and have additional boarding gates, concessions, a restaurant and the airport’s aircraft rescue and firefighting center. The project will include local art featuring Columbia’s historical and natural attributes.

    Elliott said the consultants are waiting on information from the FAA before they present draft plans to local residents. The consulting firm expects to make a presentation about the project some time this winter.

    As part of the fiscal year 2016 budget, which was approved last month, the city set aside $500,000 from fiscal year 2014 general fund savings to begin pooling money for the new terminal project. City Manager Mike Matthes said he will propose a ballot measure for August 2016 for voters to decide whether to increase the lodging tax by 1 percent to help fund a new terminal.