Hartford airport project cleared for take-off 
FAA to allow reconstruction

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Dec. 2, 2014

HARTFORD - Hartford officials can testify to the validity of the adage that “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.”

After months of frustration, hard work, and the help of state and federal elected officials, the city was notified Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration has reversed its earlier decision and agreed to allow major reconstruction at Hartford’s airport.
 
Koppelberger said the Bureau of Aviation and Aeronautics and consulting engineers “advise they can recall no other circumstance in which the FAA has reversed itself on a decision this significant.”

“The FAA has accepted our argument the new runway layout we proposed is a better alternative than reconstructing the existing concrete runway,” City Administrator Gary Koppelberger told city officials in a memo Friday. “The new runway is now the preferred runway designated for funding consideration.”

The city has been working to convince the FAA to grant Hartford an exception to a rule which would not allow expansion and realignment of the existing runway. The council was told in April the project may not happen because of a new regulation that would require eliminating or rerouting Highway U from a “non-intrusion zone” at the west end of the proposed runway. If the city were forced to move or eliminate the highway, the additional cost would be substantial and likely prohibit the runway project from proceeding.

City officials then sent a letter and a copy of a Common Council-approved resolution to area state and federal elected officials urging them to lobby on their behalf so the project could be completed. Hartford officials were concerned they were running out of time to finish the project before the 2017 U.S. Open Golf Championship at Erin Hills Golf Course.

Council President Tim Michalak, who also serves as the council’s liaison to the Airport Committee, said funding is available for the project.


“The federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost. The state and city will split the remaining 10 percent evenly,” Michalak said. “I think the next step would be securing bids. We still should be able to complete the work on time.”

Michalak doesn’t know the financial costs to the city because of the delay, but said staff spent a large amount of time on gaining the FAA reversal.

“I know the city administrator and the airport manager have put in a lot of time on this,” Michalak said. “That’s time they could’ve spent on other things, but they had to to get this on track.”

Michalak said he knows several local state lawmakers also spent plenty of time lobbying federal officials on the city’s behalf.

Koppelberger said the Bureau of Aviation and Aeronautics and consulting engineers “advise they can recall no other circumstance in which the FAA has reversed itself on a decision this significant.”

Mayor Joe Dautermann was out of town and unavailable for comment.