The Newport City Council Thursday gave the nod to High Desert Aggregate & Paving, Inc., of Prineville, to renovate and resurface both runways at the Newport Airport. Their winning bid came in at $6.7 million, substantially below an engineering estimate. However, work is not expected to begin until next year.
The delay was produced by uncertainty surrounding getting the 90% funding check from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA has been the target of U.S. Congressional budget machinations following the so-called “sequester” action after House GOP and Democratic members of Congress couldn’t agree on a federal deficit reduction bill. So even though the FAA has approved Newport’s project, and the money is in the FAA’s account, the transfer of funds to the Newport project is not likely until October. That’s too late in the construction season to get the three month project underway.
So, next year.
However the start next spring will be free of any concern for the project’s effect on a threatened bird called the Streaked Horned Lark. The FAA has determined that the lark, although quite common in the Willamette Valley, does not appear to be a regular inhabitant of the Oregon coast nor is the coast a significant breeding area. So that gives High Desert Aggregate & Paving a great deal of flexibility in how they schedule the work. The plan is to work on one half the the main runway, allowing some air traffic to land and take off on the other half – then switch over to finish the other half. Once that is completed, the contractor will upgrade the airport’s shorter runway. That runway would be totally closed to air traffic until the work is completed. The entire project is expected to take at least three months.
City Councilors told Interim City Manager Ted Smith that they want phone calls and letters sent to Oregon’s congressional representatives and senators to emphasize the critical importance of the airport project and to seek their support in reinforcing that fact to the FAA and to the rest of Congress.
When completed, the airport’s main runway will be narrowed from its current 150 foot width down to 100 feet, reconfiguration of its storm water handling system, revamping the runway lights and the resurfacing of both runways.
With the FAA paying 90% of the cost and the state picking up a good chunk of the remainder, the city will be getting a rebuilt airport for a few hundred thousand dollars.