With contract negotiations complete, construction of a new air traffic control tower at the Lynchburg Regional Airport could begin next month.
The current tower, built in the 1960s, has outlived its useful life, according to Airport Director Mark Courtney. The building is old, contains asbestos, and is expensive to heat and maintain, he said.
The current air traffic tower sits atop a three-story office building, which once housed Federal Aviation Administration technical operations personnel, a flight service station and the National Weather Service. As the FAA technical operations personnel moved out in 2013 and the flight service station and the weather service have not been in the tower for years, the tower has much more space than needed, Courtney said.
The new structure will house only air traffic control functions and personnel in addition to communications and navigational equipment.
The height of the new tower to the top of the antennas will be 75 feet. The height of the existing tower caps at 65 feet.
“It will just be a traditional concrete tower structure with a cab on top, rather than an office building with a cab on top, Courtney said.
Construction of a new tower was included in the airport’s capital improvement plan for about seven or eight years and was recommended in the airport’s master plan approved by the FAA in 2010, Courtney said.
The current control tower nearly was on the chopping block, when it was among 149 contract towers slated for closure during congressional sequestration in 2013.
The management of contract towers is outsourced to private companies by the FAA.
Airports with fewer than 150,000 takeoffs and landings per year or fewer than 10,000 commercial operations were slated for closure. Lynchburg Regional Airport was below both although it was one of the busiest airports set to be closed, Courtney said.
Ultimately, no towers were shuttered, and the FAA’s Contract Tower Program has been fully-funded, Courtney said.
“Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been very active in having the program supported in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Courtney said.
Lynchburg Regional Airport finished calendar year 2015 with 101,870 takeoffs and landings.
A notice of award was posted in February announcing the city of Lynchburg intends to award the $3.3 million tower project to Coleman-Adams Construction Inc. The contract has not been signed or executed yet, but the city is anticipating issuing a notice to proceed to Coleman-Adams in mid-April, Courtney said.
While there isn’t a final construction schedule, construction of the tower is expected to begin sometime in mid-April and should be completed by the end of the year, Courtney said.
Construction originally was expected to start in 2015. Courtney said the delay owes to a combination of forces including negotiations involving pricing and the end of the construction season with the approach of winter.
Total construction costs are $3.3 million, which does not include design engineering and construction administration services. Funding for the project comes from a combination of federal and state grants as well as passenger facility charges.
Demolition of the current tower is included in the contract. There will be no impact to airport operations during construction; the existing tower will continue to operate and will not be razed until the new tower is completed.