Lincoln voters overwhelmingly approved spending $227,500 to relocate the town airport’s main runway, effectively saving the airport from eventual shutdown by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The 393-84 vote during Tuesday’s townwide referendum allows Lincoln to pay 5 percent of the $4.55 million cost of moving the 2,804-foot main runway about 185 feet, which will permit the runway’s glide path to change so it conforms with FAA regulations, town officials said Wednesday.
The move is caused by trees that have grown into the runway glide path on an island in the Penobscot River, which planes fly over as they land at or take off from the airport, Lincoln Town Manager Rick Bronson said.
The $227,500 is 5 percent of the total $4.55 million cost. The Maine Department of Transportation is paying a matching 5 percent of the cost, with the FAA paying the other 90 percent, or $4.09 million.
If the town did not agree to move the runway, eventually the FAA would force the Lincoln Regional Airport’s closure and compel the town to return several hundred thousand dollars in grants the town has collected from the federal agency over the last several years, said Ruth Birtz, the town’s economic development assistant.
The relocation will move the runway about 185 feet closer to West Broadway, also Route 2, which is one of Lincoln’s main retail thoroughfares and an increasingly awkward place to run large trucks.
Birtz said the runway’s relocation could allow the town to build a road that connects the the town-owned former Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC mill site — where the town is hoping for redevelopment — with River Road, or Route 116, which would provide easier access between Interstate 95. The airport is located between I-95 and the former mill site.
“That’s huge,” Birtz said. “It actually would give us room for a bypass road for truck traffic. It would take trucks off Route 2 and take them directly onto the interstate access road.”
The town owns 76 acres of the approximately 300-acre mill site that it hopes to develop as soon as possible. Developers have expressed interest in the land, but shied away due to the truck traffic issues, Birtz said.
The airport is used by small-plane business and recreational fliers in the Lincoln Lakes region. Owned by the town, it charges tie-down fees to the owners of a few dozen local airplanes. The town also has a camping ground nearby and hosts fly-ins annually to encourage tourists to use the airport.