Chelan Douglas Port To Have Pangborn Airport Runway Rebuilt
The Chelan Douglas Port Authority plans to rebuild the runway at Pangborn Airport in the next couple of years.
The Port's board members heard a presentation about the project at their Tuesday Meting.
The runway is 7,000 feet long and 100 feet wide and has a load capacity of 192,000 pounds.
The last time it had any rehabilitation work done on it was in 1999, which means it's now being used beyond its 20-year pavement life.
The southeast end of the runway was extended 600 feet in 2006 while the northeast end was extended in 2016 to bring the structure to its current 7,000-foot length.
It's been determined that the wind is favorable to land on the runway 95 percent of the time, which means the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not provide any funding for any new crosswind runway.
Port CEO Jim Kuntz pointed out it would be essential to have all maintenance elements in place, including new snow removal equipment being purchased, to keep the airport functional with a single runway.
Dave Mitchell is the Northwest Aviation Practice Lead with the engineering and design company Ardurra, which is overseeing the rebuild. He gave the presentation on the project.
The firm is already wrapping up improvements to two taxiways at the airport and is now focusing on the runway.
Mitchell pointed to an examination of the runway by the Washington Department of Transportation which determined the condition of the runway on a scale of 0 to 100 in what's called a pavement condition index.
The older section of the runway was rated at 50 in 2018 and was projected to be 40 in 2023. The condition is considered poor, although still very functional. The runway would have to be shut down, according to Mitchell, if it were rated at 15 or 20.
Mitchell said the study still indicates that the runway needs to be rebuilt. "The project need, really the main reason is that the bulk of the runway needs to be reconstructed," said Mitchell.
Another change that'll be made with the improvements will be a move away from its current design, which slopes from one side to the other in what's called a "shed" design. The rebuilt runway will be crowned to help drain water off the sides during rain. FAA standards call for runways to be crowned.
One complication is what will be done with the newer sections of the runway. Mitchell said the FAA has indicated it will not be funding replacement costs for the portions built in 2006 and 2016 because they haven't reached their 20-year pavement life. The newer sections were still constructed in the shed design, raising questions of design continuity with the section to be rebuilt.
Another question is whether the new runway stretch will be 100 or 150 feet wide. Mitchell said the FAA will only fund what is justifiable, and Pangborn doesn't have aircraft flying in that requires a 150-foot-wide runway. He said the Port would have to do its homework to prove justification of the wider runway.
Kuntz said the bidding process could include a 150 foot option as an alternate scenario, and a final determination of how wide the runway would be could be made at a later date.
A big issue facing the Port will be how to keep the airport open while its lone runway is being rebuilt.
One scenario, according to Mitchell, would be to use one of the taxiways. Taxiway A, or Alpha, would provide 5,500 feet of runway, which Mitchell said would be doable. But he said there were safety concerns, and the taxiway would only be 75 feet wide, something the FAA and Alaska Airlines (the lone commercial carrier serving Pangborn) would have to agree to.
Mitchell also raised the likelihood of access to the taxiway being necessary in the construction process of the new runway. He said it would be counterproductive to use the taxiway as a temporary runway, only to close it down for three weeks which would lead to the airport ceasing operations for the time period.
Another alternative for keeping the airport open would be to use the existing cross wind runway, which would provide a length of 4,500 feet, while also being less than 100 feet wide. Mitchell wasn't sure if the smaller configuration would be adequate for the current airline carrier. He said a lot of work would have to be done on the crosswind runway to make it serviceable on a temporary basis.
In the event the airport would have to close to all traffic, Mitchell said his firm had worked on projects of similar scope at airports in Idaho Falls, Idaho and Sun Valley, Idaho which were completed in 30 days each time.
He told Port board members at their Tuesday meeting that he would strive to duplicate those efforts at Pangborn Airport.
"I'm not promising I can do your runway in 30 days," Mitchell said. "But we're going to do everything we can to shorten that window as tight as we can."
In addition, Mitchell said it would be necessary to have design work of the new runway done by the end of 2024 in order to start the bidding process by February of 2025. That way the runway could be under construction in the fall of 2025 and be completed by November.
There was concern if fall would be the right season to build the runway, given the possibilities for late summer wildfires in the region. Mitchell said construction of the runway could be moved to the springtime, but would likely have to wait until 2026 to take place.
The timing has to do with when FAA funding will be available. According to Kuntz, the current schedule calls for $1 million to be provided in 2024, followed by $18 million from the FAA in 2025, and an additional $12 million in FAA money in 2028. The funding would cover the $34 million price tag. Additional matching money from the FAA could total 10 percent if the cost was higher.
Kuntz was concerned that the Port could be carrying a debt of $12 million, having to finance the project before the FAA's final $12 million installment is delivered in 2028. He said they would likely pursue a certificate of participation from the FAA, which amounts to an IOU, to offset the debt.
Kuntz wondered out loud what would happen if the runway rebuilt turned into a $50 million project. He told Port board members Tuesday that many questions about the runway project would be answered eventually.
Federal Airport Improvement Program funding will be used to purchase new snow removal equipment planned for the airport. Funding from the bipartisan federal infrastructure law will be used to initiate the new runway construction in 2024.