TOWANDA (AP) - The Corbett administration announced July 16 that the Bradford County Airport will receive about $960,555 in federal and state funds to help pay for the ongoing construction of a taxiway and to reimburse the airport for land that it has acquired, according to state and county officials.
The bulk of the money - $760,000 in federal funds and $42,222 in state funds - will be used to help pay for the construction of a 1,100-foot section of a taxiway that, when complete, will run parallel to the airport's runway, along its entire length, said Bradford County Airport Manager Heather Blokzyl.
The taxiway, which is halfway complete, is being built so that planes and jets won't have to taxi on the airport's 4,300-foot runway before they take off and to reduce the time they taxi on the runway after they land, in order to avoid a potential collision with another aircraft that is taking off or landing, said Bradford County Airport Manager Heather Blokzyl.
"It's a big safety issue," Carl Lafy, the former manager of the airport, has said.
There also will be several paved interconnections between the runway and the taxiway for taxiing aircraft to travel on, including interconnections at both ends of the runway. The taxiway is about 200 feet from the runway.
Construction of the 1,100-foot section of the taxiway, which will cost $1.3 million, will make the taxiway three-quarters complete, Blokzyl said.
The Airport Authority had opened bids for the construction of the 1,100-foot section on Jan. 15, but has had to wait for funding to be approved before the project could get underway, Blokzyl said.
The low bidder for the 1,100-foot section was Middendorf Contracting of Towanda, she said.
The entire $960,555 is in the form of grants, she said.
Blokzyl said she expects another federal- and state-funded grant to be approved "shortly" for the 1,100-foot section, which will provide the remaining funds needed to complete that portion of the taxiway.
The airport itself must pay 5 percent of the cost of the 1,100-foot section, she said.
Construction of the 1,100-foot section is expected to get underway this summer and be completed later this year, she said.
Of the $960,555 disbursement, $158,222 will be used to reimburse the Bradford County Airport Authority for some of the property it acquired on which eight flood-damaged structures - including three homes, garages and a barn - are located, Blokzyl said.
The $158,222 also will pay for the demolition of the eight structures, she said. The acquired land will be used for future development of the airport, she said.
One reason why it is unsafe for aircraft to taxi on the runway is that pilots who are starting their takeoff at the northern end of the runway cannot see the southern end of the runway, she said.
A pilot operating an aircraft without a radio, such as a vintage aircraft or a sport aircraft, might not be able to be warned about an approaching aircraft that is landing or taking off, Blokzyl said.
Blokzyl said she hoped the final phase of the taxiway's construction will take place in 2015. However, completing the taxiway next year "is contingent on the availability of grant funding," she said.
Government officials applauded the award of the $960,555.
"We must not forget that funding for airports and other important projects like this enhance our local economies, stabilize jobs and provide stimulation for local and interstate commerce," U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, said. "In order for Pennsylvania, and the country for that matter, to be competitive, it is important we continuously maintain and expand economic infrastructure around the state. I applaud all involved and look forward to more improvements."
"As a member of the state Senate Aviation Caucus, I am very pleased to hear of this important investment in rural Pennsylvania," state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said. "Securing this funding provides a tremendous lift for the airport and our rural transportation infrastructure."
"I am pleased to see both state and federal funding coming to the Northern Tier so that the Bradford County Airport can enhance its facilities," state Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Towanda, said. "In order to attract additional investments and job-creating industries in Bradford County, this type of transportation infrastructure is vital to our overall economic growth."
"This is great news for Bradford County," state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Wellsboro, said. "This funding is beneficial on a number of levels, especially for creating and retaining new and added jobs to our area. I look forward to the continued growth and progress at the airport."
Blokzyl added, "This (funding) will promote future business in Bradford County. It's one project closer to ultimately accepting larger aircraft here, and will aid in additional safety measures at the airport. We are very thankful and excited for this progress."
The Bradford County Airport is located in Towanda Township.