Airport gets money for study

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded two grants totaling $1.8 million to facilitate construction to two east-central New Mexico airport facilities.

Tucumcari will receive $100,000 to develop an environmental assessment for an 1,100-foot extension of Runway 26 at the Tucumcari Municipal Airport.

Meanwhile, the town of Vaughn will receive $1.7 million to pave the runway, taxiway, apron and access road for the construction of the new airport in Guadalupe County.

“I am pleased to see federal funds being disbursed to these local airport facilities,” said U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., in a news release. “These local airports not only support travel but also contribute to the economy of small communities.”

Domenici serves on the Senate subcommittee that funds such transportation projects.

Runway 26 is one of two at the airport, according to Manager Steve Stephenson. The runways, 8 and 26 and 3 and 21, are named for their magnetic headings.

The airport is planning to extend Runway 26. Under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the runway must be extended to at least 80 percent of the length of the airport’s longest runway.

Runway 21 is currently about 7,100 feet, Stephenson said. The extension of Runway 26 would take the length from 4,600 feet to 5,700 feet — 80.3 percent of Runway 21’s distance.

The runway was about that length many decades ago, Stephenson said, but FAA requirements back then scaled back runway lengths because of concerns regarding maintenance costs.

Now, Stephenson said, airplanes are bigger and faster, and more runway space is the norm.

“We have other grant money for rebuilding it,” Stephenson said, “but the $100,000 is what’s required for the environmental impact report.”

Stephenson said since all of the land has been used for a runway in the past, he doesn’t expect the environmental impact study to raise any red flags about the construction.

“It’s just a matter of putting (the runway) back to where it was in the first place,” Stephenson said.

The DOT funds will be disbursed through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In all, the FAA awarded four grants worth more than $4.2 million for work in Albuquerque, Hatch, Vaughn and Tucumcari.