Runway expansion no cost to taxpayers

The construction of a new runway at the Carroll County Regional Airport, which is set to begin in 2020, is expected to cost no taxpayer money, according to government officials.

The project will be funded primarily by the Federal Aviation Administration, with the Maryland Aviation Administration and county each picking up 5 percent of the costs, said Jeff Topper, deputy director of the county Department of Public Works.


The project's estimated time frame for completion is 2031, and its total cost is expected to be $78 million.

The county's portion, which will be about $3.9 million, is expected to be paid almost entirely by fees collected to use the 41 private hangars on site, which will revert to the county's control in 2021, and the elimination of debt payments for the airport's seven corporate hangars, which will be paid off in 2022.

The total new revenue earned from hanger rentals and money saved from the elimination of said payments will be around $500,000 a year beginning in 2022, Topper said.

"The [Airport Enterprise] fund would be able to support this project without any need of bonded debt or help from the general fund," he said.

Several smaller fees, including one placed on fuel sales, also go to the Airport Enterprise Fund, Topper said.

The fund's purpose is to pay for projects with revenue sources other than tax dollars. Since the county commissioners approved the project in April 2013, the fund has successfully paid for all runway expenses without tapping into tax-generated revenue, Topper said.

Roy Lewis, planning director for Delta Airport Consultants, which is overseeing the project, said the project requires a lengthy series of steps before the county can break ground on the expansion, and the timeline is driven by limitations set by the FAA.

"[The administration] will not allow anyone to plan more than one $5 million program a year [using federal funding]," Lewis said.


County government is currently finishing up the planning phase of the project, and will begin a comprehensive environmental assessment study in the spring of 2016. Following the completion of the study in 2017, the county will acquire the necessary land to complete the runway expansion and remove any obstructions.

The current runway is 5,100 feet; the new one will be lengthened to 5,500 feet. In order to complete the project, an additional 55 acres will need to be purchased by the county, Lewis said.

County government expects this phase to be complete in the summer of 2018.

Preliminary and final design is estimated to last through summer 2020, at which time construction will begin on the new runway. Construction is expected to take the better part of seven years, Lewis said. Once complete, it will be situated 250 feet to the west and 600 feet to the north of the existing runway, and will be 400 feet from the taxiway — a 100-foot increase compared to the existing runway and taxiway.

A new taxiway will also be built as part of the overall project. Construction on that will begin following the runway's completion. The existing taxiway will be used during the four years it is expected to take to finish the new one, and the same situation will take place regarding the existing runway, Lewis said.

During the Carroll County Board of Commissioners' meeting last Thursday, Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, asked what the condition of the existing runway is from a safety standpoint.


Topper said an analysis of the pavement has not been conducted in several years, and one will need to be done to determine if repairs are needed. If it's discovered that the runway needs improvements, they will be done, he said.

"Similar to a highway, we will repave it without putting too much money into it," Topper said.

Joe McKelvey, manager of the airport, said the existing runway is functioning properly and not inadequate in any way.

However, Topper said when the runway expansion is complete, it will improve the safety conditions of the airport.

"The greater separation from the taxiway, moving it away from The Arc [of Carroll County], and lower approach minimums will make the airport even more safe and useful at drawing in businesses to the county," Topper said.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.