If all the remaining pieces fall into place, construction on the planned Oak Ridge general aviation airport could begin in 2018, according to Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority President Bill Marrison.
While giving an update to the general aviation committee of the MKAA Board of Commissioners on March 30, Marrison acknowledged the project has taken much longer than initially expected. It started in 2009 as a request from the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET) for a feasibility study for an Oak Ridge airport. CROET was established in 1995 to develop and manage former Department of Energy property for reuse.
“If everything falls into lockstep, we could be under construction in 2018,” Marrison said last week.
The project will likely take two to three years of construction and could open in 2021.
The airport will be located on a 177-acre site adjacent to East Tennessee Technology Park, which brings a number of economic assets to the project, Marrison told the general aviation committee of the MKAA Board of Commissioners on March 30.
“This airport is adjacent to what is going to be a major industrial park in the East Tennessee region with a lot of development, a lot of jobs, a lot of new investors, and the two have a symbiotic relationship — the industrial park and the airport — one supports the business of the other,” he said.
The proximity of the airport can also make the industrial park more attractive to businesses, he said.
The airport will have a 5,000-foot runway and will be used for corporate and private planes. The airport won’t compete with McGhee Tyson Airport because it will not have any air carrier service for commercial travel, Marrison said.
“We’re expanding here at McGhee Tyson,” he said, noting there is a waiting list for hangar space at TAC Air and that Downtown Island Airport in Knoxville doesn’t have a long enough runway to support many corporate jets.
The Oak Ridge airport is expected to employ six to 10 people once it is fully operational.
The airport authority is currently working through the land transfer process with the DOE and is about halfway through developing a master plan for the airport. Once the master plan is ready, it will be submitted to the board of commissioners and the FAA for review and approval.
Marrison said once those steps are completed, then the airport authority will start actively working on funding sources from the FAA, other federal agencies and the state to secure funding for the project.