DRB to consider airport runway extension

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board on Jan. 25 will begin its scrutiny of a $3.5 million plan to renovate and extend the runway at the Middlebury State Airport.
This plan to lengthen the existing 2,500-foot runway by 700 feet (to the north) and widen it from the current 50 to 60 feet is also being reviewed by the federal Army Corps of Engineers, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Act 250. The project also calls for acquisition of “avigation” easements from some airport neighbors primarily at the southern takeoff/approach of the runway, as well as reconstruction and repaving of the runway and taxiing apron.
State aviation officials have said the Middlebury runway/taxi surfaces were last repaved more than 20 years ago and can no longer be satisfactorily patched based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards.
Michele Boomhower, director of Policy Planning & Intermodal Development for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said the DRB’s verdict on the federally funded project will carry weight, though the FAA has exclusive jurisdiction over matters related to air navigation. Also, Chapter 24, section 4413 of the state statutes places limits on municipal review of state-owned and -operated institutions and facilities.
VTrans is portraying the runway work as a critical safety improvement for the Middlebury Airport. But many neighbors of the facility have voiced concerns that the runway extension will usher in larger and more numerous aircraft to the small airport. Neighbors have also expressed fears that the runway extension could be a precursor to other improvements that might encourage more intensive use of the airport, which they contend is already bringing ample noise and vibrations to the area.
VTrans is scheduled to hold a third public informational meeting about the project at the Middlebury municipal gym this Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. Officials will listen to public feedback and provide a brief update on the status of the design and permit applications for the improvement plan.
Boomhower said plans call for a final design of the project to be completed by Feb. 17, at which time the work will go out to bid. Those bids will be opened on or around April 6 and the final information will be sent to the FAA by April 20 for inclusion into a final grant application. The FAA began reviewing a draft grant application late last month. If VTrans receives a grant for the Middlebury Airport work, construction — beginning with tree clearing — would begin next winter, Boomhower said. Runway-related work would begin in April of 2017, with a total construction time of 90 to 120 days, she said.
The Jan. 25 DRB meeting is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the municipal building conference room.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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