A recent increase in requests from clients has spurred Burlington Municipal Airport to once again consider runway expansion.
The airport, located about a mile northwest of Downtown Burlington, has a 4,350-foot runway, but Airport Manager Gary Meisner said clients such as Nestle, the chocolate maker located in the city, have asked for expansion to nearly 5,000 feet for safety reasons.
“The extra length for the runway to take off and land, there’s an added safety (factor),” Meisner said. “We’ve had more inquiries from people to do it, so we’re looking at it.”
The runway has measured 4,350 feet for as long as Meisner can remember. In 2000, a similar extension was proposed, but public backlash over the possible effect on property values and quality of life forced the Burlington City Council to limit expansion to 4,900 feet and simply propose the details of a plan without actually approving any action.
“It’s been on the plan for quite a while,” Meisner said. “It’s just there and nobody’s done it.”
At its Aug. 25 meeting, the Burlington Airport Committee discussed requesting that the City Council contact the Wisconsin Department of Transportation regarding a feasibility study on runway expansion. The committee vote to move forward with the feasibility study was unanimous, according to Meisner.
The issue has not been placed on a City Council agenda yet, according to City Clerk Diahnn Halbach. Mayor Jeannie Hefty said Meisner will present to the council in the near future and that she expects the project to be received better than it was in 2000.
“I think this is a little bit different,” Hefty said. “That was a whole expansion, where now you’re only talking about a runway.”
No taxpayer impact
The expansion would come at no cost to Burlington residents; the city already owns the land needed for expansion, according to Meisner. The estimated $1 million price tag for the expansion would be paid for almost in its entirety by the federal government, with the airport making up the difference out of its own budget.
“The airport is totally self-sufficient,” Meisner said. “It doesn’t take any money from the taxpayer at all. We have a surplus of funds and it’s another way to improve the airport.”
As far as the quality of life concerns go, Meisner doesn’t anticipate a huge bump in airport traffic as a result of the expansion.
“There may be a few airplanes that come here a few more times each year,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see a notable increase.”
Additionally, the expanded runway would allow planes to fly higher over populated areas near the airport, alleviating another citizen concern.“They would fly higher,” Meisner said. “They’ll take off sooner and they’ll be higher because it (the runway) will be longer.”The proposed expansion could take several years to complete since the airport has to petition the state, get letters of authorization and conduct an environmental study, Meisner said. “This is nothing that can happen instantly,” he said. “It’s a year or two at least.”