The $4.46 million runway extension project at the Sussex County Airport on Rudder Lane is officially in hibernation for the rest of the winter.
General contractor Mumford & Miller Concrete of Middletown spent August to December clearing 40 acres of woodland from the future approach route north of the existing 5,000-foot runway, laid gravel for a new taxiway on the south end and expanded the airport’s existing stormwater management pond.
“We got all the prep work done in the first 100 days of the project,” airport manager James Hickin said. “The only thing we weren’t able to get done was paving the taxiway, but that might turn out to be a good thing.”
Hickin said colder than normal temperatures in November prevented the new taxiway from being paved during the first phase, as initially planned.
“What we’ll end up doing is paving both the taxiway and the runway at the same time,” he said. “That means there won’t be any gaps and it could end up resulting in a small savings by having it all done at once.”
Hickin said he anticipates the paving work to begin around mid-March with completion planned in mid-June. That phase also will include the installation of a new LED runway lighting system.
The current project will expand the 5,000-foot runway at the county airport by 500 feet.
Most of the project’s cost is being funded by the federal government, with about $450,000 of the total being split by the state and the county.
A second 500-foot expansion is planned to follow sometime in the next five years. The two extensions would make the runway 6,000 feet long.
County officials say the additional 1,000 feet of runway would allow larger aircraft to use the airport, which would allow nearby PATS Aircraft Systems to expand its client base and expand its current workforce of about 400.
Several funding and planning hurdles are currently standing in the way of the second extension, which is estimated to cost about $20 million.
About $7 million of that cost would be needed to realign Park Avenue, which also would require the state to acquire about 50 acres of fields and woodland.
The General Assembly has budgeted $800,000 for the design work and environmental studies needed before the realignment could begin.
The Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee has approved a $3.7 million grant to fund the second runway expansion. However, that money is contingent on federal highway dollars being approved to fund the Park Avenue realignment.