Airport to benefit from federal funds

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By Jennifer Garcia

The federal government is awarding funds and the airports in Los Alamos and Raton will reap the benefits.

A press release from Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s office announced Wednesday that the funds will be awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bingaman said the Raton Municipal Airport will receive $1.1 million for perimeter fencing, which will enhance airport security and keep wildlife out of the airport movement areas.

Funding will be used to design the strengthening of runway 2-20 to accommodate existing and anticipated aircraft whereby increasing the capacity of that airport.

The Los Alamos Airport will receive $540,000 for the design and rehabilitation of runway 9-27, which will extend the runway’s useful life.

The airport will also use funding to extend the runway by 550 feet. The extension will allow the airport to accommodate different aircraft previously restricted.

“New Mexico communities benefit greatly from their airports, but maintenance and improvements can be costly.  These funds will help make a needed upgrade to the Raton and Los Alamos airports,” Bingaman said.

Airport Manager Dave Ploeger said the funds will be used to pay the consulting engineers to do all the geotechnical survey work and everything on the runway and the area that the runway will run into, as well as the design of asphalt overlay for the runway.

“The asphalt is deteriorated,” Ploeger explained. “The funds will also be used to design an extension at the end of the runway to the east, that’s approximately 450 feet long. That will take the runway out to a total of 6,000 feet in length.”

Ploeger explained in order to get the funds, a certain process had to be followed.

“You submit a capital improvement plan to the FAA (Federal Aviation Association) every year. It’s a five-year plan. This was one of the projects on this plan. This was the year that we wanted to do the design, if the money was available and they told us that it is. We had been preparing for the grant and to get the paperwork turned in,” he said.

Ploeger said that it will cost about $6 million to overlay and extend the runway.

“The FAA pays 95 percent of the cost, the county pays 2.5 percent, then we ask the DOT (Department of Transportation) Aviation Division to pay the other 2.5 percent,” Ploeger explained. “The projects involve two grants, one from the FAA and one from the state.”

Ploeger also said that the process has actually taken about three years. He said the environmental clearance was submitted last year, the design of the project will be done this year and the construction portion of the project probably won’t begin until next year.

“That’s the expensive part,” he said.