Contractors, FAA officials, airport personnel, Fed Ex, the Coast Guard and private pilots gathered at Newport City Hall Thursday to map out the work that will be done to upgrade the airport’s main runway, and all the drainage, electrical circuits and the lighting and navigational electronic transmitting devices that goes with it.
Newport Public Works Engineering Technician Melissa Roman told the gathering that it’s a five month project that will force aircraft to use the airport’s second runway for normal comings and goings. Somewhere around mid-July, when construction workers start rebuilding the intersection where the two runways cross, the airport will have to be shut down completely for up to ten days. It’ll force Fed Ex to truck Newport cargo to and from the Corvallis Airport over those ten days. The Coast Guard’s helicopter operations will not be affected.
The main runway was built for large World War II bombers like B-24′ and 25’s and occasional B-29’s which required very wide runways. Thus Newport’s main runway is to this day 150 feet wide – far more than it needs to be. Roman says when it came time to re-surface the runway the FAA decided the width would be reduced to 100 feet. The runway will also be built with a barely perceptible pitched-roof-like configuration, so the middle of the runway will be the highest point so rain will flow off the pavement in both directions and down into storm drains. Such a “high center” arrangement will enhance aircraft safety when they take off and land during heavy downpours.
Roman says that complex navigational and other electronic devices that convey information to pilots on the ground and in the air will be affected by the construction. But pilots will know what’s what by simply checking well known websites like “navair.com” Weather information is also available 24 hours a day on the internet and by calling the Newport Airport terminal building during regular business hours.
The nearly ten million dollar upgrade is 95% paid for with federal FAA funds and other grants which is common for airport work. It will require a relatively small match from the city when you consider what it’s getting for every dollar it puts into the project.
Again, the project begins in mid-May. The airport will shut down completely for ten days in early to mid-July. It is required to be completely finished in October but we’re told the smart money is on September.