Airport runway extension up in air

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Planning Department has listed a $250,000 update of the County Airport master plan, which could lead to an extension of the runway, as its top capital project request for 2015.

But even if that request is approved, don’t expect the airport’s 4,000-foot runway to be lengthened anytime soon.

“There is a process we have to follow,” Planning Director James Mraz said Thursday.

He said it would be “at least” 2017 before a runway extension project might even be “considered” to get off the ground. County officials have for several years talked about a need to extend the runway at the small community airport off Route 67.

Mraz on Monday reviewed his department’s three 2015 capital budget requests with the Board of Supervisors’ Buildings and Grounds-Highway Committee. In order of priority, they are: first, airport master plan update – $250,000; second, Centralized Records Storage Facility expansion – $40,000; and third, continued county Rail Trail development – $50,000.

He said the first priority is to update Fulton County’s 1993 airport master plan. He said that would be the “first step” for the county in pursuing the runway extension.

“We’re looking at it,” he said, although multi-year steps are involved.

Mraz said any changes or updates to the plan have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration before the county can receive the usual 90 percent federal aid for projects. He said all of that would be done in 2015. Following that, he said the county would have to prepare design plans for the runway extension and try to secure an FAA grant for the project through 2016. He said 2017 looks like the earliest the county might realistically be able to begin implementing a runway extension.

Mraz informed the committee the Centralized Records Storage Facility expansion project involves converting a portion of the first floor of the old county jail building on East Montgomery Street – currently known as the Fort Johnstown Annex – into a records storage room. This project is similar to a county project that was completed in 2012 on the second floor of the building.

The Rail Trail project would involve “actual development” of a section of the trail between Dennie’s Crossing and County Highway 155, Mraz said. Construction of this part of the trail is dependent on the county acquiring needed rights-of-way, he said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.