Firm to work on runway extension plans

The Spokane International Airport board of directors moved a major runway extension forward Wednesday with the hiring of San Francisco-based URS Engineering to complete plans for a project that could cost as much as $50 million.

URS will work with Taylor Engineering Inc. of Spokane on the 2,000-foot extension, to 11,000 feet, that airport Director Neal Sealock said will allow departing planes to carry more passengers and cargo during summer months. Hot air reduces wing lift, so planes need more runway for take-offs, he said.

Also, he said, cargo carriers that might consider expanding operations in Spokane want runways at least 11,000 feet long.

Board Engineering Committee Chairman Irv Reed said construction costs over two years could range anywhere from $30 million to $50 million, depending on material costs. Most, if not all, of the necessary funds will come from airport coffers, he said.

Information presented to the board by Director of Finance Cheryl Moose shows Spokane landing fees are significantly below those of airports of comparable size. “We feel that we do have room to move up in a reasonable manner,” she said.

Higher advertising revenues are also a possibility.

Liz Younger, president of the Younger Agency, said sales are ahead of projections for new backlit screens, digital displays and kiosks being installed in the terminals. They should be operating by Labor Day, she said.

Also during the meeting, Sealock awarded the Spokane International Airport Police Department Life Saving Award to Sgt. Neil Connors, who helped disarm a man who took a boy hostage on a Spokane Transit Authority bus Aug. 9. Connors, an airport officer since 1994, calmed the 48-year-old suspect until he dropped his knife.

Police then subdued the man.

“Clearly, he saved a life,” Sealock said.

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