The Manhattan Regional Airport’s runway expansion project continues to be a serious work in progress, according to airport director Jesse Romo.
During the Manhattan Airport advisory board meeting Monday, Romo said that the federal government was expected to foot most of the bill for the airport’s runway expansion. Romo said that the FAA, like most governmental entities, is feeling the financial crunch following a year of quarantines and shutdowns.
Officials are waiting on outside funding from federal grants and will not receive that money until sometime next year, according to Romo. The Manhattan Airport receives $1 million annually from the Airport Improvement Program grant.
“We are seeing construction costs increase across the board,” Romo said, recounting recent conversations with other airports and contractors who say their material and transportation expenses are skyrocketing – often tripling project price tags.
Budget woes at the Federal Aviation Administration are forcing airport officials to re-think some of their original ideas. Romo said the FAA may consider capping the AIP grant. That would leave about $6 million to be made up from local dollars.
Airport management immediately researched design alternatives.
“We’ve been in a scramble this last month trying to find ways to save money,” Romo said.
Airport staff and officials settled on a design alternative that would save nearly $5 million by substituting certain runway substrate materials. The changes require an exception to some FAA standards.
Romo pointed out that the modifications were for foundation materials used below ground and would not impact the runway’s capacity in any way.
“It would not significantly affect the dimensions, capabilities, or operations,” he said.
The airport’s proposal for the modification was drafted and submitted to the FAA last week.
Romo said the project evolves “almost daily” in response to struggles at the FAA.
The government’s aviation employees continue to work remotely and the agency, never a paragon of efficiency, is operating at glacial speed.
“There are some coordination issues with the FAA,” Romo said. ‘There are a lot more communication gaps than in the past.”
Despite the FAA challenges, Romo said commencement of actual construction on the project is still on schedule to begin in April of 2023.
In other business, Romo told board members that technical issues with the anticipated Park Mobile app are all but resolved and officials hope to see the capabilities open to the public in the near future. Romo said the app, which is the same one used on the K-State campus will allow users to take a picture of their ticket and pay their parking fee directly through the app.
With agreements slated to expire at the year, Romo told the board that the airport’s Requests for Proposal for ground transportation services garnered two proposals: one from each current vendor, Hertz and Enterprise. There had been speculation that one or more additional vendors would submit a proposal but none was received by the deadline.
Romo said that the airport is seeing greatly improved traffic, with enplanements just seven percent below 2019, pre-Covid numbers.