Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern has received a $3 million grant for a runway repaving project, part of improvements for 11 airports across North Carolina.

It is part of $35.4 million in state funding for projects by the N.C. Board of Transportation’s Aviation Division.

Other regional project grants include $1.4 million at Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville for lighting, signage and electrical vault replacement; and $8 million to Kinston Regional Airport for runway and taxiway repaving.

Coastal Carolina has two runways and the one that will be repaved is the smaller crosswinds one – 4,000 feet by 150 feet. It hasn’t been resurfaced in about 20 years.

Work on the project will begin in the spring of 2018, after bids are let and plans are developed and approved.

It should be about a 60- to 90-day project, which will likely not be put out to bids until early 2018 because of the fluctuating costs of petroleum products.

The main 6,453-foot runway was resurfaced several years ago for about $6 million through a Federal Aviation Administration grant. It accommodates the large commercial jet traffic.

When the longer runway was repaved, much of the work was done during five-hour periods at night after the day’s traffic had ceased.

“This one we will be able to do during the day, which will keep the costs down,” said Andy Shorter, the airport director, adding that there would be “no impact to our commercial air carriers” while the larger runway takes on the additional traffic.

Still, the cost of paving a runway is far more than the average cost for a roadway.

“It is a special mix of asphalt,” said Shorter. “Runway asphalt is the most expensive in any community, but that is because it is held to a certain standard because the FAA wants it to last a certain amount of time. There is also a load-factor issue with it.”

The shorter runway accommodates the smaller business jets, flight training flights and some commercial aviation. It is northwest to southeast.

He said runways are designed to lend themselves to the predominate winds, set on magnetic headings.

Shorter said the cost of runway asphalt is also justified by the transportation value it provides.

“You pave a mile of runway and it can take you around the world,” he said.

Shorter said the airport does more than 30,000 flights per year, with the smaller runway accounting for about 10,000 of those.

The airport does not receive any local government funding, operating as a stand-alone business, with assistance from the state and federal governments on large capital projects such as this.

“The state division of aviation has done a lot in the last couple of years to make sure everyone is aware of the impacts of airports throughout the state,” Shorter said. “They understand at the state level that is very important to support the airports, because it is really the front door to the community. To us specifically, all airports don’t have two runways. It is a huge benefit for us to make sure we are open and available.”

There are 72 airports in the state and Coastal Carolina is one of 10 that has commercial service.

A 2016 economic impact study of statewide airports showed Coastal Carolina is a major local economic driver. Coastal Carolina’s figure was $179 million in economic impact in 2017.

“The other sub piece of that is about three and a half million dollars direct to local and state tax receipts,” he said.

In addition to enhancing airport safety, these upgrades will support and help generate more economic activity and tourism, according to DOT.

“Airports are a critical part of North Carolina’s transportation system,” said N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation Director Bobby Walston. “Completing these projects will increase the safety of these facilities while also maintaining the link these airports provide our state to the national and global economies.”

Statewide airport data from 2016 shows aviation contributes over $31 billion in annual economic impact to the N.C. economy, including 123,400 airport-related jobs.

With the exception of the Albert J. Ellis Airport project, which will be funded 90 percent by the state and 10 percent locally, each of these safety projects are completely state-funded.

The funds being used are allocated for safety, operations and maintenance, according to DOT.

On the web: newberairport.com

 

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or charlie.hall@newbernsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieHallNBSJ