Federal funds to help airport

$2.5 million grant will address runway, taxiway surface issues

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SHAWN GUST/Press Cracks in the taxi way Delta can be dangerous for aircraft taking off and landing at the Coeur d'Alene Airport. The airfield will be receiving a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help with need repairs.

The Coeur d'Alene Airport has landed a $2.5 million grant to repair dangerous surface issues, said airport Manager Greg Delavan.

Sen. Mike Crapo has confirmed that the Federal Aviation Administration dollars have been secured, Delavan said on Tuesday, though the airport has yet to receive the grant paperwork.

The funds will allow for the resurfacing of Runway 119, Delavan said, as well as a full reconstruction of the 4,500-foot Taxiway Delta. Both projects are sorely needed, he said.

"(The delta) has got some pretty significant cracking in it," Delavan said. "If you take a piece of that asphalt, it can crumble in your hands. It's just deteriorating to the point it needs to be replaced."

The taxiway was built during World War II, Delavan said. The airport has ongoing efforts to fill cracks, he added, but the delta hasn't seen significant improvements since 1995.

Delavan has heard plenty of jokes, he said, like the one about picking up a cowboy hat on the taxiway and finding a cowboy and a horse underneath.

But as he watched an aircraft move across the taxiway on Tuesday, he noted that a wrong turn could easily lodge one of its wheels in a nearby crack.

"It could get stuck in there and do significant damage to the aircraft," Delavan said, adding that there are too many cracks to count. "Potholes are not acceptable in our business."

Runway 119 is also showing cracks, he added, though not as dire.

"As a crack develops, water can get in, which leads to further degradation of the surface," he said of the runway. "Aircrafts are landing on that at 140 miles an hour, so we need a smooth surface."

The resurfacing of the 5,400-foot runway will address the cracks, he said.

"Just putting patches on it is not the way to fix that," he said.

Jim Van Sky, a helicopter pilot who uses the airport up to several times a week, said the taxiway's condition makes it difficult for pilots to control their planes.

"If you hit a pothole in your car, you go, 'Darn it.' If you hit a pothole in an airplane, it could be enough to not be able to stay on the taxiway," Van Sky said, adding that the surface conditions also hinder the repositioning of helicopters.

He applauded the airport pursuing improvements before the issues grew worse.

"It's a big improvement for them to be able to do this," he said.

The state is providing a 2 percent match for the FAA grant, and Kootenai County is providing an 8 percent match.

The county commissioners approved the grant at their Tuesday business meeting.

Delavan hopes to see the project started next week, he said.

Flights will still continue in and out of the airport during construction, he said, adding that alternate access routes will be provided.

Some operations will certainly be inconvenienced, he said, and free tie-down space is being offered to some tenants during the construction.

Delavan said the airport experiences 150,000 take-offs and landings per year.

He noted that the airport has been pursuing this project for several years.

"We're always trying to look ahead a few years," he said. "To get ahead of problems before they create hazards."

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