The manager of Carroll County Regional Airport expects a new, longer runway will allow aircraft with heavier loads to land more safely in adverse conditions, as part of the $80 million expansion project that could begin construction as early as 2022.
The expansion has been in the works since before 2007, when the first airport master plan was started, airport manager Mark Myers said. The plan was revised in 2015 with the goal of building a replacement runway spanning 5,500 feet, according to the airport’s website. Myers said airport design standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration were “revised entirely” in 2012 and sparked this expansion.
“The main reason is for safety and to meet current FAA standards," Myers said in an interview.
In 2015, the Board of County Commissioners hired Delta Airport Consultants of North Carolina for planning, design and engineering work on the airport project. The Carroll County Times then reported the expansion was influenced by the results of a 2005 Delta study, which predicted an increase in flights by relatively small aircraft.
“The types of aircraft forecasted to use the airport over the next 20 years include the family of medium sized business jets, similar to the Challenger 605 aircraft. These types of aircraft typically hold from 8-12 passengers,” the airport’s website states.
Additionally, Myers wrote in an email, the existing runway has “far exceeded” its anticipated useful life and will soon need “major rehabilitation if not replaced."
As part of the project, a portion of Meadow Branch Road in Westminster will be relocated to the west of the existing road to provide for a safety area between the runway and the road, according to Myers. The relocation of Meadow Branch Road is planned to begin in 2022 as the first phase of construction, he said.
The airport is in the midst of a land acquisition process that is necessary for the road relocation. It purchased 20 acres from CJ Miller, a construction company that owns land along Meadow Branch Road, to make way for the relocated portion of the road, according to Myers.
The relocated portion will begin in front of Shelter Systems Limited at 1025 Meadow Branch Road, cut through the Miller property and connect to Vision Way Drive, according to a schematic of the proposed relocation.
Myers predicts vehicle traffic will continue to travel Meadow Branch Road during the relocation phase, as the new portion of the road will be built next to the existing road.
After the road is moved, the new runway will be expanded to be 400 feet longer than the existing runway, and it will be shifted 250 feet to the west and 600 feet to the north, according to Myers. There will be 400 feet between the taxiway and the runway instead of the current distance of 300 feet, he said.
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Because the runway will be longer, aircraft will be able to carry a little more cargo, whether that’s fuel or passengers, according to Myers. How much additional weight aircraft will be able to carry after the new runway is built will vary for each aircraft, as they are different sizes and have various capabilities, Myers said.
“It increases the operational capability of the airport as far as what aircraft can land," he said.
It’ll also make the runway safer for aircraft landing in weather like rain or snow by improving visibility.
“Since the runway will be a little bit longer, in adverse conditions it’ll make it more usable," Myers said. “If you’ve got more pavement you’ve got more safety as far as the distance the aircraft has to stop."
The Carroll airport has budgeted to fund 5% of the $80 million cost expected to complete the expansion, according to Myers. The Maryland Aviation Administration will contribute 5%, and the FAA will bear the brunt of the cost at 90%, Myers said.
Myers hopes the expansion will be fully complete in 2032. The construction of the runway will be done in such a way that the airport can continue operating, he said, and so far, the project is proceeding smoothly.
As for the next step, Myers and his staff are looking into preliminary engineering. Runway design, environmental mitigation and construction of the runway are in the future, he said.