Washington County Airport awarded $686K grant; short closure looms

July 30, 2014
A plane takes off from Washington County Airport in this 2012 photo. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The Washington County Airport will receive a $686,110 state grant to pay for two phases of projects related to obstructions, and locally funded runway preservation work will result in a 24-hour closure of the airport in August.

A study costing $150,000 will pay for a consultant’s mapping of obstructions such as trees or terrain.

“The height depends on where it’s located,” said Scott Gray, executive director of the county airport. “If it’s close, a 10-foot tree could be an obstruction.”

The remainder of the grant can be used to remove obstructions or for land acquisition. It is the second in a series of grants, and two more are likely to be coming to the county airport in the future.

The Washington County Airport has been focusing on renovations leading to the goal of lengthening the runway. The 401-acre airport mainly in South Franklin Township is home to more than 80 aircraft, 44 hangars and seven aviation businesses.

The state Department of Transportation aviation development program portion of the funding comes from the state’s jet fuel tax and leverages an equal amount of local matching funds, according to a news release about a total of $18 million being distributed by state and federal government to improve safety and operations at 35 Pennsylvania airports that support more than 2,600 jobs. “The economic growth fueled by natural gas drilling has created a need for expanded transportation infrastructure,” said state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg.

The Federal Aviation Administration is providing $17.1 million in grants through the block grant program, which is funded through taxes collected nationally on airline tickets, freight waybills, international departure fees and the sale of aviation fuel. Airports receive up to 90 percent of eligible project costs for projects included in Pennsylvania’s 12-year transportation program.

At their July meeting, the Washington County commissioners awarded a $275,401 contract to T.A. Robinson Asphalt Paving, Inc., Pittsburgh, at the request of the Washington County Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the airport, to repair pavement. The project will be paid for through an allocation from the Local Share Account of gambling revenue at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, according to the county purchasing department.

“Robinson will probably start in August sometime,” Gray said Wedensday, but a date hasn’t yet been determined for an airport closure to allow the crew to apply a preservation sealant along the runway. It is likely to take place during a weekend.

“There has been no pre-construction meeting yet,” Gray said. “It may just be one day, it may be for two. The airport will remain closed for 24 hours. The whole project is only 15 days. Most of it will be done while the airport is open.”

The board retroactively approved an additional $6,000 for application of permanent reflective markings during the early June runway closure. This increased the total amount of the county’s contract with East Coast Paving and Sealcoating, Inc., to $303,357.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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