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New Runway For Salem Airport Could Be Open In 2014
Updated May 5, 2013 1:10 AM
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(SALEM) - A new 3,000 runway for Salem Airport could be open for service as early as 2014.

Marcia Walker of the Leader Democrat reports that's the goal of Corey Harper, an airport planner with BF & S (Butler Fairman & Seufert) Engineers, the engineering firm that has just been hired to guide the Salem Air Board through the process of building the new airport.

BF & S replaces R.W. Armstrong, which had been involved with the project for decades.

Harper hit the ground running Wednesday night, Jan. 16, during the regular monthly meeting of the air board, spending two hours reviewing the project and laying out his plans. At the top of his to-do list is purchasing three more tracts of property.

He explained there is $100,000 in Federal Aviation Administration grant money available this year to purchase the property and he hopes to come up with an additional $400,000 to $500,000 in FAA funds yet this year. He told board members that would come from money that was intended for another client's project.

Harper said both the FAA and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) have to buy into the idea, but is optimistic that goal can be achieved. In addition to funds from the FAA, the state is to provide a 2.5 percent match and local funds are needed for another 7.5 percent match. Washington County has provided $225,000 from Economic Development Income Tax revenue; of that, the county has already paid $150,000 to the city.

Harper also intends for board members to meet with state transportation officials to review project plans. "This is your sales pitch," Harper told them.

He also plans for members to travel to Chicago to meet with FAA officials "to show them you are serious about the project."

During the meeting, the board approved a master services agreement with BF & S. Harper explained from that, he will break out "task orders," bringing those before the board for review and to issue "notices to proceed." The first task identified by Harper is land acquisition.

He reminded board members that a farming plan, for property the air board has purchased and is renting out, needs to meet FAA guidelines. Also needed is an updated plan for the airport terminal layout, which needs to be added to the overall airport plan. Harper mentioned that state transportation officials are frustrated that the plan has not been kept up to date.

Harper intends to meet with community leaders, including county and city officials, to provide updates on the project.

And he stressed the improvements should be viewed as benefiting the region, not just Salem and not just Washington County.

Also during the meeting, the air board voted unanimously to terminate a contract with R.W. Armstrong to oversee a project that involves moving utilities. The air board has contracted with Temple & Temple Excavating and Paving to do the work; R.W. Armstrong was to oversee the project.

The board decided to hand that task to BF & S, subject to review and approval of the contract by their attorney, John Mead.

At one time, R.W. Armstrong had put the cost of the new airport at $24 million. During a conversation after the meeting, Harper said he believes the project can be done for under $12 million.

Some of the changes he has proposed to lower the cost is using an existing house owned by the air board as a terminal building rather than construct a new building, saving $3 million

Harper also has suggested reducing the number of taxiway connectors, which link the runway to ramps, hangars and terminals. Plans had been for six, Harper explained, which he said was excessive for an airport this size. Harper's plan calls for two; he estimated the costs of the connectors at between $500,000 to $750,000 each.

Harper has also added several features to the plan, including taxiway lighting and perimeter fencing.

If the FAA and INDOT concur, Harper said, the new 3,000 runway would be up and going as early as 2014, starting at the west end and building east.

He stressed the need for community support.

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