February 9, 2009 in City

Airport going ahead with improvements

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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A slowing economy isn’t keeping Spokane International Airport from beginning nearly $70 million in improvements to its runway and apron areas over the next several years.

Work is expected to begin this year on a $40 million project to lengthen the main runway by 2,000 feet. The longer runway, at 11,000 feet, could lead to expansion of air cargo use in future years, officials said.

At the same time, wear and weathering means older concrete apron areas – poured for the airport when it opened in 1965 – need replacing.

As part of that project, the airport will expand the apron by 70,000 square feet at the southwest end of Concourse C to create new space for overnight aircraft parking, said Todd Woodard, manager of public relations and marketing.

Work is expected to begin this summer on the apron expansion so that the area can be used while the older portions of the apron are replaced.

The runway and apron work are among nine airport projects that are about to go to bid. About 60 representatives of contracting firms attended a meeting recently to learn project details, which has airport officials hopeful that bidding will be competitive, Woodward said. “It’s a very hungry environment,” he said.

The airport currently provides overnight parking for 20 to 22 aircraft depending on the season. Those planes use up much of the available parking space. “We need additional parking space for long-term growth,” Woodard said.

The airport and United Airlines last week announced the addition of two daily nonstop flights in each direction between Spokane and San Francisco. Another service expansion announcement is expected this week, but airport officials declined to give details.

Work on the 36.7-acre apron is not expected to inconvenience airlines or passengers. Some sky bridge ramps will be closed while the apron beneath them is replaced. The construction is scheduled to move from east to west.

On Monday, the Spokane City Council is scheduled to consider accepting a grant of $2.4 million to begin the apron work, paid out of an 8 percent federal tax collected on tickets.

The runway project is going ahead in phases, with the initial work this summer on installing landing lights and guidance systems, officials said. The southwest extension would be paved in 2010.

In addition, the slopes on either side of the main runway are due for re-contouring to bring them into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration standards.

A portion of the main runway also needs to be raised. It has a nearly imperceptible dip in it, Woodard said.

Work on the runway and apron projects could be accelerated because the airport may be eligible for federal stimulus grants. A House stimulus bill has $5 billion set aside for airports nationwide.

UI gets plugged in

The University of Idaho is getting green with the addition of five new electric vehicles on its Moscow campus.

The two cars and three trucks made by Miles Electric Vehicles will be used by staff in facilities services, housing, and parking and transportation.

Despite their size, the little white trucks can reach 25 mph, according to a news release. They can travel 40 to 50 miles on a single charge.

“This is just one of the many steps to help the University of Idaho achieve our goals in a variety of sustainability categories,” said Charles Zillinger, director of landscape and exterior services.

New STA planning director

Spokane Transit Authority last week hired Karl Otterstrom, formerly of King County Metro, as its new director of planning. A Spokane native, he holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington and also studied at Eastern Washington University.

Otterstrom previously served on the Spokane Regional Transportation Council’s citizen advisory committee and completed internships at STA in 2002 and the federal government in 2006, STA officials said.

Street closure

Riverside Avenue from Jefferson to Cedar streets will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. to early afternoon Tuesday for movie filming.


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