WARSAW — In what appears to be the biggest grant acquisitions in city history, officials announced they have been awarded $6.3 million that will be used to lower power lines on the east end of the city airport’s east-west runway.
The grant will provide all of the money needed for engineering and construction costs. The lowering of the lines will be overseen by American Electric Power and the project could be completed by the end of 2020.
The money will come from a $470 million supplemental grant fund approved by Congress. Warsaw and Indianapolis were the only two cities on the national list to receive funding, according to Aviation Board President Jay Rigdon.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced the supplemental grant award Friday morning.
Airport Manager Nick King said the lowering of lines will increase the amount of traffic on the runway, especially in inclement weather.
He said it’s hard to determine how much traffic the airport loses because of the short runway, but said he was aware of 17 large jets that went elsewhere in the month of February.
The runway is 6,000 feet long, but pilots only use 5,100 feet for landing in good conditions and only 4,100 feet in inclement conditions.
Once the power lines are lowered, pilots will have a better ability to take off heading east, King said.
Lowering of the lines will allow the airport to consider extending the east-west runway in the future further to the east.
King declined to say when that could happen, but it is clearly still years away from happening if it is ever approved.
A key part of the runway extension would be the reconfiguring of a CR 100E to accommodate the longer runway.
The road would either loop around the runway or a tunnel underneath the runway could be constructed. The city prefers a tunnel. The cost of adjusting the road is expected to be in the area of $8 million to $12 million.
But on Friday, there was a sense of celebration.
The aviation board has been working for decades to see the lines lowered and has been the main focus of board member Gene Zale who joined the board in the early 1980s.
Thallemer, looking ahead to the runway extension, jokingly asked Zale if he could remain on the board for another 40 years.
Zale was ecstatic about Friday’s development.
“I said, I’d stay on this board until it happens,” Zale noted.
Thallemer said the process of lowering power lines is not that lengthy, but admitted that much of that is up to AEP officials, who might have other more pressing projects.
The city had been looking at two revenue sources through the federal government, including one that would have required the city pitch in 5 percent of the total.