By Harve Allen
OKLAHOMA CITY – Air travelers flying in and out of the Okmulgee Regional Airport will soon have an easier – and safer – time accessing the airport’s hangar and terminal areas.
Airport and city officials recently learned that the Federal Aviation Administration had selected Okmulgee Regional Airport to receive $2.3 million in discretionary money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The stimulus money will go toward reconstructing and realigning the airport’s parallel taxiway as well as reconstructing the taxilanes.
Officials point to the taxiway’s poor pavement condition as the main reason for the reconstruction project. The taxiway is also bow-shaped which does not meet current FAA design standards.
Following construction, the taxiway will be straight and run fully parallel to runway 18/36. In the event that the airport has to shut down the runway, the new taxiway could be used as a temporary runway, officials said.
In addition to the ARRA funds, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission recently approved a Capital Improvement Program grant in the amount of $162,000 to help the city of Okmulgee in its efforts to make the new taxiway’s pavement the same strength as the pavement on the airport’s existing runway. The city will contribute $250,000 of its own money toward that strengthening project.
“Okmulgee Regional Airport is critical to that city’s economic future,” Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird said. “Just like many other general aviation airports around the state, Okmulgee Regional serves as a link to commerce and industry as evidenced by those businesses and entities that frequently use the airport such as McCoy’s Lumber, Walmart and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, just to name a few. These are the same businesses that provide jobs within the community.”
Okmulgee airport manager Jeremy Porter said the FAA’s decision to award the airport the stimulus money was welcomed news among public and private citizens alike.
“I know from our local pilots, it’s getting to the point where the taxiway can no longer be rehabilitated. We’ve patched and re-patched. So, locally, we’re real excited about the project because that is going to give our pilots good concrete and even better taxiway access to our runways,” said Porter.
“The fact that our taxiways were deteriorating was kind of a handicap with the jets getting off the runway safely and especially getting to our fueling stations.”
Okmulgee city manager Bob Baxter said the taxiway and taxilane projects were supposed to begin in 2010. But with federal stimulus money now on the way, the start date has been moved up.
“Under the stimulus package, it’s a pretty aggressive schedule. We’ve already bid (the taxiway projects) out and have contractors selected. We’re hopeful it will all be completed by January 2010, or possibly even as early as December, depending on the weather,” Baxter said.
Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren, whose district includes Okmulgee, said he supports FAA’s decision to provide ARRA funds to the airport, pointing out that the stimulus package included a broad spectrum of funding to save and create jobs, improve civic infrastructure, and expand critical social and law enforcement services for the citizens of Oklahoma.
“I am very pleased this funding is coming to Okmulgee's airport as it will help with critical improvements to the facility. I also thank Vic Bird and his staff for their hard work and diligence in putting the stimulus funding they received to work rapidly and efficiently,” Boren said. One of the roles of the Aeronautics Commission is to channel FAA grants and discretionary money to the 100 airports in the state that are eligible to receive those funds.
Out of the $1.1 billion in ARRA funds designated for airport projects across the U.S., $115 million went to airport projects within the FAA’s Southwest Region, which includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. Out of the $115 million allocated to the Southwest Region, Oklahoma received $16.4 million.
Besides Okmulgee, other Oklahoma airports that will receive ARRA funds include Stillwater Regional Airport, Bartlesville Municipal Airport and Pauls Valley Municipal Airport, as well as Oklahoma’s City’s Will Rogers World Airport and Wiley Post Airport.
Oklahoma has 114 publicly owned airports, placing it fourth nationally for the number of public airports per capita. A total of 41 of those airports are jet capable, meaning their runways are at least 5,000 feet long, the minimum distance needed by most jet aircraft to safely land or take off. Approximately 93 percent of the state’s population lives within 25 miles of an airport with a jet-capable runway.