PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend executives provided a group of pilots a timeline on next spring’s runway reconstruction, a $5.2 million project that will shut down the Jefferson County International Airport for more than 40 days.
As concerns rose over individual hangar rental and commercial operations like the Port Townsend Aero Museum and the Spruce Goose Cafe, port Executive Director Jim Pivarnik said it was an opportunity the agency couldn’t turn away.
“The FAA stood up and said, ‘It’s that important to us to do this project that we’ll fund this at 100 percent,’ ” Pivarnik said. “If we were to turn this money back to the FAA, chances are we wouldn’t get it back.”
A group of about 30 people, mostly pilots, heard the plans Wednesday evening at Tailspin Tommy’s, a hanger at the airport that featured a 1977 fixed-wing, single-engine Cessna.
Pivarnik and port Deputy Director Eric Toews stood in front of the plane, with occasional takeoffs in the background, and described the demolition and reconstruction of runway 9/27. It is expected to begin between April 15 and May 1, depending on the weather, and last up to 44 days.
Construction should be complete by June 26, although a second coat of pavement markings likely will shut down airport operations for two days next September.
“Our goal is to not do this project in the summer,” Pivarnik said. “We have July through September to really use the airport.
“The FAA wanted the project done this year, but we were able to talk them into putting this off into next year.”
Pivarnik said port commissioners may consider amending rental rates during the closure period as one pilot raised concern about renting “a storage facility” as opposed to a hangar.
He also discussed a joint advertising campaign to encourage Jefferson County residents to visit the museum and cafe, particularly during the planned closure.
A separate question about parallel use of the taxiway for a temporary runway during construction, was shut down.
“At the end of the day, the FAA was not willing to do parallel runway use,” Pivarnik said. “Everyone here would like to use the taxiway, but it got to the point where I was going to lose funding, so I pulled the plug.”
Toews said the project is out to bid until Aug. 16. The contract may be awarded by the port commission in late September, and pre-construction designs from the contractor would be due this fall.
A pre-construction pilot briefing is scheduled to take place in January, and the contractor would begin work by May 1 when weather conditions allow.
Additional work will include a relocated and reconstructed taxiway connector, the installation of new signage and pavement markings and the reconstruction of runway lights to include LEDs, Pivarnik said.
There also will be associated storm drainage improvements, he said.
Toews said the port is considering a work schedule of six days per week and up to 12 hours per day to keep the project on track.
“When it was done in 1998, it wasn’t done properly,” Pivarnik said. “This is a total re-do, and it’s expected to last 30 years.”
A second taxiway connector is not included in the 2020 construction plans, but port officials are meeting with the FAA to amend the airport layout plan to include a 450-foot connector east of the center location. Engineering and construction is likely two or three years away, Pivarnik said.
The port also is researching what it can do to preserve its in-ground fuel tank at the airport.
Pivarnik said officials learned three weeks ago that the port’s insurance company will no longer insure the 46-year-old tank. The port has until Sept. 1 to find an alternative, he said.
“We’ve been running tests, and it’s been tested every year without a problem,” Pivarnik said. “We’re hoping to know by the end of this week whether our insurance company will give us a grace period of six to 12 months, or if we can find gap insurance.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].