With a yellow plane flying across a blue sky for a backdrop, the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Redcoats snipped a red ribbon Tuesday afternoon, signifying the opening of a reconstructed runway at Abilene Regional Airport.
“17R, 35L,” to be exact. Those numbers and letters are important because they tell pilots exactly where to land, said Don Green, director of transportation services for the city of Abilene, to the crowd of news media and guests.
The new runway’s appearance and the smooth landing it provides are just as important to passengers arriving at the airport, Mayor Norm Archibald said.
“That is the front door of Abilene for so many people who come our way,” Archibald said.
Three representatives from the Fort Worth office of the Federal Aviation Administration, plus city and civic leaders, took turns praising the runway project and the cooperation between the entities that made the reconstruction possible.
Ignacio Flores, Southwest Region director for the FAA, said a safe and efficient system requires facilities and maintenance. He cited local city officials for working smoothly with the FAA.
“Without their collaboration and support,” Flores said, “this airport project would not have been completed.”
Total cost of the project, which included removal and replacement of the base material and asphalt, was $19,558,443, according to a news release from the city. The city’s share was $1,955,845, paid for by Proposition 9 of a 2015 bond election.
The remainder came from a federal airport improvement grant. Projected lifetime of the reconstructed runway is 25 years, according to the release.
Larry Gill, chairman of the Airport Development Board, recalled making his way across a caliche parking lot, sometimes more mud than caliche, before improvements were made at the airport. Today, passengers park on a concrete parking lot with covered spaces.
Those improvements, plus the runway reconstruction, wouldn’t be possible, Gill said, without the support of the mayor, City Council, and residents who voted for the enabling bond package.
Bond issues provide leverage, the mayor added, that allows for community improvements. With residents agreeing to pass a bond issue that paid for 10 percent of the project, leverage was gained to get the remainder of the $19 million from the federal government. Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting was a nod to that achievement.
“We are celebrating everything that is good about these bond packages,” Archibald said.
In opening remarks, Green also acknowledged the city and residents of Abilene for passing the bond issue in 2015, “ensuring this airport will take us well into the future.”