Planning on jetting off from the Morgantown airport? Not so fast.

25 Sep

Last week, at Morgantown’s regular Tuesday night city council meeting, the topic of extending the city’s airport runway took up much of the agenda. The project, however, seems considerably out of reach.

Although City Manager Paul Brake presented the progress of the airport’s construction with fervent optimism, it seems clear that residents will not be booking tickets to tropical destinations from the Morgantown Municipal Airport anytime soon.

The project, originally brought to public attention in 2014, is still in its early form. Ultimately, with goals of a capacity large enough to bring commercial flights into Morgantown, plans consist of a 14 hundred foot runway extension, and a new catch-guard arresting system to guide planes as they land. A diagram of the project plan can be viewed on Mountaineer News Service. 

As described in this article from the Dominion Post, actual construction of the project began in April of this year, but controversy weighing the costs and benefits of the project continue.

In efforts to convince the FAA (Federal Aviation Association) to reimburse between 75 and 90 percent of  its $40 million cost, the airport plants to build three T-hangars for charter and military planes to lease.

However, since only the first hangar is even under construction, and all three must be completed before the runway extension project is officially underway, it is evident that the road ahead is a long one.

Furthermore, following construction of the three hangars, there is 4.7 million cubic yards of dirt that must be moved in order to move forward. Summer progress was slowed, Brake said, because of the limited amount of United States Air Force troops available to work at the site and furthermore, because the rocky shelf below the land caused setbacks.

The budget for the project seems wanting as well as Brake stated that $1.6 million of the $2.4 million set aside has already been spent on the first hangar.

“So what is all this for? What size of jet will Morgantown eventually be capable of welcoming?” Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis asked the question that was certainly in my mind after this, at least in my eyes, disheartening presentation.

Brake quickly replied that the extension will allow up jets up to the size of 757’s. This is however, if all hangars are completed, all dirt moved, the AFA signs off on its regulations and reimbursements, and so on. The list left to do is exhausting.

James Giuliani, a local landlord for university students, seemed to also doubt the future of the project. Raising the question of WVU’s ties to the project, he argued that the project will fall short and leave the extension’s only merit as allowing student athletes to use charter planes to travel for away games.

“What then, will be the use for the rest of us?” Giuliani asked of the project in its entirety.

Therefore, the community of Morgantown must continue to ask questions and hold the council and project accountable. With so much looming uncertainty regarding such a sizeable endeavor, it is crucial that the extension is taken to completion or stopped before money is wasted on half the job.

More information can be found on Morgantown’s City Council webpage which lists their meeting minutes and agendas.



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