MILLINOCKET, Maine — Plans to improve runway safety at the town’s airport will get a $488,130 boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the grant awarded Friday would support construction of runway end safety areas and diminish any obstructions to the runway visibility zone.
“Airport infrastructure is a critical part of our transportation system,” they said in a joint statement Friday. “This grant from the Department of Transportation will allow Millinocket Municipal Airport to make much-needed improvements to its facilities and thereby increase the operational safety of its services.”
Pike Industries of Lewiston will get $625,000 to remove a hill near the intersection of two airport runways and fill, pave and otherwise enhance safety at one end of one runway, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue has said.
Town officials expect that state and federal grants will pay for all but a fraction of the work.
Pike’s work followed a $250,000 tree-removal operation aimed at clearing safety zones in and around the airport last fall in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Town leaders view their airport as an underused economic asset ripe for growth — with a little help from federal authorities — and since 2005 have been working their multiyear plan for developing the airport as a cornerstone to the Katahdin regional economy.
Located on Medway Road, the airport has two runways, a main terminal and pilots lounge, six municipally and privately owned hangars, 13 tie-downs, and 24-hour fuel service. It can handle most light twin-jet and turboprop aircraft. The main runway is 4,713 feet long and has pilot-controlled lighting. The other is 4,007 feet and can be reached by ski aircraft, according to the town Web site, millinocket.org.
With its nearest major competitors, airports in Bangor and Presque Isle, at least an hour away, the airport can facilitate economic growth, town officials say. If Millinocket’s runway is expanded to 5,500 feet, which the town hopes to do, most light jets and turboprops could land on the main runway in bad weather.
It can be expanded to 6,500 feet, which would accommodate all but large four-engine commercial jets, town officials have said.
The Town Council voted 7-0 in mid-May to award the contract to Pike, the qualified bidder whose bid was lowest. With corporate headquarters in Belmont, N.H., Pike has regional offices in three states and several suboffices and asphalt plants in Maine, according to the company Web site, pikeindustries.com.