Airport project on schedule

By Keith Strange @strangereporter

July 23, 2014

HOLLY SPRINGS — Officials with the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport say work is progressing on schedule on a project they believe will ultimately stimulate economic development in the area.

Both Airport Authority member Nolan Kirkman and Authority Chairman John Springthorpe have reported that surveying work, tree removal and erosion control efforts have begun on the project that is designed to extend the airport’s runway.

In order to do that, a one-mile portion of Holly Springs Church Road will have to be relocated. That, Springthorpe said, could mean some delays for drivers at some point.

“They’ve completed the clearing of the area and have started grading and putting environmental controls in place,” said Springthorpe. “Those are the main things they’re focused on at this point.

“There is a lot of money going into controlling runoff from construction sites, and with a couple of streams in the area, there are some significant controls that are having to be put in place to catch silt and not allow it to run down the streams.”

The work is part of a plan that will extend the airport’s 4,300-foot runway by 1,200 feet, space officials say is necessary to accommodate larger planes.

In order to extend the runway, workers will have to move Holly Springs Church Road, a phase of the project that Kirkman and Springthorpe say is under way and should be completed by spring.

“Runway lengthening and site work will start immediately upon completion of that phase, and it should take approximately another year,” Kirkman said.

The final phase will involve paving and lighting the runway.

The entire project is “optimistically” expected to be completed by summer 2017.

“The ultimate goal here is economic development, providing a safe airport for landing and allowing access to larger planes.” Kirkman said.

Springthorpe said the need to accommodate larger planes has been evident for years.

“We had identified the need that the runway had to be larger because there are four corporate jets based at the airport, and at times they can’t use the airport because the runway is too short,” he said. “That is keeping out prospective businesses.”

While he said he believes area property owners aren’t being affected that much right now, Springthorpe said he could see them experiencing some temporary delays as the project progresses.

“The way the contractor is working, we’re pretty much away from the homes right now,” he said. “But when they begin to tie the new road into the old road, the construction will be much more visible and there may be some delays from that.

“But we appreciate the patience of the people in the area as construction moves forward.”

Mount Airy company Smith-Rowe LLC, was awarded the contract for the project last year, bidding $4,888, 743.

The Surry County Board of Commissioners has appropriated $411,000 as a local match for the project against a $5 million investment from the state and federal governments, money which Springthorpe said will help fuel the county’s economy. The recent grant award was not included in the original budget for the project and will hopefully lower the price of the project, according to Springthorpe.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.