Airport receives grant for study of runway relocation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 18, 2002

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the Albert Lea Municipal Airport a $90,000 federal grant to be used for an environmental assessment study for a probable runway relocation.

&uot;We’ll look at the site and see if there are any impacts to wetlands, noise, run-off, or anything that might be of environmental concern,&uot; explained City Engineer Dave Olson.

The environmental assessment is part of a larger project that will expand the airport runway from 4,500 to 5,000 feet. In doing so, the runway will be moved more than 300 feet to the west.

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The project is an effort to help update the airport and more generally, to help Albert Lea business.

Olson explained, &uot;In the past, a business maybe would land in Rochester, Mason City or Owatonna and then drive here to do business. By expanding, there would be more possibility that those jets will land here.&uot;

According to Olson, by building a longer runway, &uot;We can then land and take off different types of business jets. Some of the business jets don’t land here because of the short runway.&uot;

Many insurance companies require airplanes under their plans to land on runways longer than 5,000 feet, so the current length has hampered many planes from landing in Albert Lea, according to municipal airport manager Jim Hanson.

The city has hired a consulting firm, Mead and Hunt Inc. from Minneapolis, to work on the plans for the runway and do the research necessary to go through with the project.

The undertaking is estimated to cost between $2 million and $4 million. Most of the cost, however, will be covered by state and federal grants.

&uot;Any part of the project that involves the runway or electricity will be funded by federal grants. This will cover a large part of our cost,&uot; said Hanson.

The federal grants provide 90 percent of the costs, leaving the city to pay the remaining 10 percent.

This could mean up to a $200,000 cost to the city, but according to Hanson, those costs can be mitigated.

For part of the plan which would involve putting up buildings,the state will provide a 60-percent grant, leaving the city with 40 percent of the cost.

Estimates on that section of the project may be anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million, according to Hanson.

The overall project may take anywhere from two to eight years, depending on the speed of the planning. &uot;Once we make a master plan we can move past other projects like this which do not have a master plan. This could mean that we can finish as soon as two years from now,&uot; said Hanson.