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Posted December 13, 2011 | comments Leave a comment

Runway opening delayed

Construction project slowed by weather, discovery of rock

By Candace Sipos -- csipos@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Reopening of the main runway at Winchester Regional Airport is tentatively set for Friday morning.

About a dozen people met at the airport Monday morning for an update on plant to reopen the runway after three months of construction, and the answer was a disappointing one for some.

The reopening was originally scheduled for today, but a chain of circumstances pushed it back a few days, according to Executive Director Renny Manuel, who knows all too well that the date is never set in stone.

"The snow in October didn't help, and then the torrential rainfall that we had last week totally shut them down," Manuel said, adding that the construction workers continued to work, but were restricted to certain areas because of the moisture.

When the $7.5 million project began in September, the start date was pushed back four days because of rain.

Manuel said the workers discovered rock that needed to be jack-hammered when installing new lights, which also slowed down the process. Rifenburg Construction officials were hoping to finish up the project early, she said, noting that workers were on the job all hours of the day, and sometimes worked around the clock.

"They've been very diligent," she said.

The same company will return in the spring to finalize some tasks that lend themselves to warmer weather, such as grooving of the runway, painting and final installation of lighting, Manuel said.

During that time, the runway will shut down completely for another two days, and only at nighttime for an additional few days, she said.

Manuel noted that pilots and other customers have been supportive throughout this process.

"Everybody's been very understanding and very cooperative," she said. "... We gain 20-year life on our pavement. ... This is a great asset and improvement to the runway service."

Throughout the project, workers have replaced the older 4,500 feet of the 5,500-foot main runway and improved airfield lighting. The runway did not meet FAA safety standards mainly because it was flat instead of having a crown in the middle, which allows water to run off the sides, Manuel said. She noted that the former paving job was likely completed in 1962.

She estimated that the airport has lost $50,000 to $60,000 in fuel sales because of the closure. She avoided layoffs by having the 10 staff members complete other projects during the construction, including tearing off wallpaper inside the terminal, painting, cleaning up and organizing.

"I think they did an excellent job," she said. "I think it looks very nice."

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