The Great Falls Airport will soon be undergoing some much-needed upgrades with help two grants totally nearly $9 million from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program has granted Great Falls $8.9 million for updating and lengthening one of their runways and adding a new parallel taxiway.
The money is broken down into two grants; one totally $7.1 million and the other for $1.8 million.
Airport Director John Faulkner says it’s been 20 years since that runway’s surface has been addressed.
He says they need to upgrade failures like the pavement grid opening up which has allowed water in causing some rocks to get loose, and the joints which are coming apart between the pavers need to be sealed.
Faulkner says the surface is not a safety concern at this time, but the upgrades are necessary.
“We’re at that point where if those fissures get any larger, they could potentially change the direction of a wheel that’s going over high speed,” said Faulkner. “Right now, today, it’s a functional surface, it could be used, but unfortunately its approaching that point where a major renovations got to be done.”
There is also a dip in the runway, causing line-of-sight problems, so the grading will be fixed as well.
Faulkner says they will make technical improvements as well, upgrading the signage and lighting to better meet safety standards.
They won’t actually be adding pavement, but with the upgrades in lighting, new markings, and new paint, the runway’s surface will be optimized, resulting in an extra 700 feet on one end, and 200 on the other. The updated runway will be close to 6,000 feet, allowing for commercial airlines to use it, especially during the winter months (when the wind prevails from the west).
Faulkner says the main runway was upgraded years ago, and the third runway will be closed with this project.
They will also eliminate two runway intersections. Faulkner says the FAA has been trying to rid airports of these types of runway-to-runway intersections for years.
“There’ll be a lot that we catch up on with this project,” said Faulkner. “None are immediate, urgent things that would require us to close the runway today, but they’re approaching the point where they need to be addressed and fortunately the funding was available to do that.”
The airport is aiming to begin construction on August 1st.
Faulkner says the runway that’s being upgraded is used mostly by the Montana Air National Guard’s C-130’s, so they may have to do their training elsewhere during the construction.
Faulkner says with the upgrade, more planes will be able to use the runway overall.