Athens-Ben Epps Airport Runway Rehabilitation Project Underway

Staff Report From Athens CEO

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

The Athens-Ben Epps Airport has begun a major runway rehabilitation project on its main runway, Runway 9/27. The updates are necessary for safety reasons, as the runway is close to 40 years old and is in poor condition as determined by routine Federal Aviation Administration inspections.

The construction will consist of removing the older asphalt and replacing it with a stronger and newer runway surface consisting of 26 inches of materials in three layers. Drainage systems will also be placed under the runway along its length to help eliminate standing water under the runway, which could ultimately damage the runway in the future. These drainage systems will help prolong the life of the new runway.

Once the asphalt has time to cure, the runway will be marked, painted, and grooved. Grooving a runway allows pilots to land on a wet runway, if raining, but to consider it a dry runway for their aircraft's performance specifications. This will allow for a safer runway for pilots and passengers landing at the airport.

The Runway 9/27 rehabilitation project also includes new runway lights and signs that will be upgraded to a higher intensity light on the runway itself. The upgrade from medium intensity lights to high intensity lights will allow pilots to see the runway sooner and farther out, particularly in inclement weather, without significant changes to the amount of light seen by those on the ground.

The time frame for completing the project is split up into several phases. Phase 1 began on July 9 and is expected to be completed by September 15, 2018. This phase will include removal of the old runway asphalt and replacement with new base, gravel, and pavement, as well as grooving, painting, and marking the runway. During this phase, airport traffic will use the secondary Runway 2/20. 

Unlike the primary Runway 9/27, which runs east to west, Runway 2/20 runs from north to south. Due to the difference in the orientation of the secondary runway, the traffic pattern for this runway takes aircraft over some residential areas to the south of the airport. The pattern changes are only temporary until the project is completed, at which time the traffic will begin using the east / west main Runway 9/27 again.

At the end of Phase 1, construction will stop and the primary Runway 9/27 will temporarily reopen for the busy fall season from September 15 through November 5, 2018. Phase 2 will begin on November 5, 2018. During Phase 2 and the remaining phases of the project, Runway 9/27 will close again for construction and air traffic will again divert temporarily to the secondary north / south Runway 2/20. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by January 15, 2019.

The total cost of the project is approximately $11.4 million. The majority of the project - approximately $10 million - is funded by the FAA. The Georgia Department of Transportation will fund approximately $682,000. The remainder, approximately $587,000, is funded as part of Project #1, Airport Capital Improvements Program Matching Funds, in the Athens-Clarke County local TSPLOST 2018 sales tax program for transportation projects approved by voters in November 2017.

"An airport's lifeblood is its runways," says Airport Director Mike Mathews. "With the new main runway completed and fully operational, it will service our community for many years to come and position us for future improvements that will allow us to welcome additional types of airport traffic to Athens-Ben Epps Airport."