Airport runway relocation to begin this spring

Freeman Municipal Airport will be under construction in the coming months as a $5 million project gets underway this spring to relocate a portion of the main runway.

Last month, the Seymour Redevelopment Commission received an update on the airport’s plans to shorten runway 5-23 by 1,000 feet on its northeast end and add 1,500 feet to the southwest end.

The project is needed to pave the way for construction of the future Burkart Boulevard south bypass, which will connect Burkart Boulevard on the east side of the city to Airport Road in Freeman Field on the west side.

When complete, the runway will measure 6,000 feet in length, making it more suitable for increased corporate air traffic, said Brian Thompson, president of the Seymour Airport Authority.

“We believe it’s going to have a huge impact on the whole area, because increasing this runway by 500 feet to 6,000 feet puts us in a class with fewer other airports in that we’ll be more available for some of the corporate aviation,” he said. “And actually, growth right now in general aviation is on the corporate side more than the single engine private ownership side.”

The project ties in with efforts by Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. and the RDC to attract and retain business in Seymour and grow the community.

“It puts us in the right position for great opportunities down the road,” Thompson said.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the project in December. A pre-bid conference was to be held Wednesday at the airport and bids will be opened Feb. 20 with the project to be awarded in March.

To complement the runway, 1,500 feet of parallel taxiway will be constructed and other taxiway intersection work will be completed.

The project also is going to help address a couple of ongoing concerns the FAA has with the airport, Thompson said.

The first issue is the approach to Runway 05-23, which runs from northeast to southwest. That approach crosses over South Walnut Street (State Road 11). Moving 1,000 feet of it from the northeast end of the runway to the southwest end into what is now a field would move the approach away from Walnut Street and eliminate that issue.

The second involves the south ends of Runway 5-23 and Runway 14-32 which meet.

Thompson said two runways at an airport at Lexington, Kentucky, came together the same way. On Aug. 27, 2007, a pilot taking off turned on the wrong runway and ran out of room to get into the air, because it was shorter than the other runway. Forty-seven passengers and two of three crew members on Comair Flight 5191 died.

“(The FAA) were potentially going to restrict us on any future projects if we didn’t correct that,” Thompson said of the issue even though Seymour’s runways are the same length.

Funding for the upcoming airport project is coming from the RDC using tax increment finance revenue generated from the city’s TIF districts, not an increase in property taxes.

Construction is expected to begin in mid-April and be finished in three months, Thompson said.

It will be completed in three phases to avoid total closure of the airport, he added.

Runway 5-23 will be closed for the majority of the project and Runway 14-32 will be substantially displaced during construction of the parallel taxiway crossing.

Notifications of restrictions and closings will be broadcast by radio to pilots, Thompson said.