Airplanes touching down at the Newton City/County Airport soon will have use of a full runway once again.
The runway reconstruction project has a target completion date of Aug. 12 — now only a few weeks away.
"Everybody's excited and anxious," said airport manager Kevin Timmermeyer. "They're ready to have the full length of the runway back."
Tim Johnson, Newton assistant city manager, said the reconstruction is a significant milestone for the airport.
"This is the first total replacement since the original runway was built back during World War II," he said.
Reconstruction of the runway was slated to begin in late August 2012. For the first phase of the project, Dondlinger Construction removed and replaced pavement on the south end of a 7,000-foot runway. Work on the middle and northern sections of the runway started in spring of this year.
The previous concrete runway was constructed in 1944, and officials reported it had exceeded its useful life. The approximately $6.4 million project was financed primarily by the Federal Aviation Administration, with the city of Newton and Harvey County each contributing some funds.
The project has gone smoothly so far, officials said. Timmermeyer said construction crews have experienced no major problems, and the project has remained on budget. Although portions of the runway had to be shut down throughout the process and the facility did see reduced traffic and fuel sales, Timmermeyer is proud of the fact the airport never closed and planes still had access to the facility.
Johnson said the new runway will help the airport meet the demands of clients in the future. The airport already is the second busiest airport in the area — after Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport — and about 140 aircraft are based at the airport, with more on a waiting list. By 2030, Johnson projects the airport could have as many as 280 based aircraft and 115,000 operations a year.
"We are poised for still more growth," he said.
Timmermeyer said the airport's clients and tenants were patient and understanding throughout the runway reconstruction process, but he said it was challenging having the runway tied up with construction from April to August this year.
"It's nice to see the end in sight," he said. "... They're ready to get things back to normal."
A grand opening celebration is planned once the new runway is up and running. The airport also will host an acrobatic competition Sept. 13-15 that likely will draw airplanes from all over the Midwest.