Environmental review underway for airport work
Officials believe work will be done in time for 2017 US Open

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

March 20, 2015

Hartford officials believe they’re getting closer to breaking ground on a proposed airport runway expansion project. Their goal is to complete the work before the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Erin Hills on June 12-18, 2017.

City Administrator Gary Koppelberger told other city officials the review of the project’s preliminary environmental assessment has been partially completed by state officials.

“(The state is) waiting on one last set of comments to complete,” Koppelberger said in a memo to city officials. “We contacted the (Federal Aviation Administration) and learned that their review was started concurrently with the (Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics). That said, they do not anticipate the review time to be lengthy.”

The project’s completion appears more certain to city officials compared to a few years ago when there appeared to be little or no chance of the project being finished on time or even at all.

The city was notified in December the FAA had reversed its earlier decision and agreed to allow major reconstruction at the airport. The FAA accepted the city’s argument the new runway layout the city had proposed was a better alternative than reconstructing the exiting runway.

The city had been working for many months 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 had been told 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.

“Any movement now is still faster than the glacial pace the entire matter was moving at earlier in this process,” Alderman and Airport Commissioner Tim Michalak said. “I’m being told it’s still believed the project will be finished before the golf tournament. The federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost. The state and city will split the remaining 10 percent evenly.”

The city has sought to have the work done by tournament time because the event attracts worldwide participants and visitors making the airport a central location for visitors coming and going from the community.

Several tasks are still needed before the project is completed. Koppelberger said they include:

■ A period of 30 days to allow for advertisement to inform the public of the opportunity to review the preliminary environmental assessment.

■ A public hearing/open house.

■ A period to address the public comments and incorporate them into the environmental assessment.

■ A period of 30 days to submit and allow review of the environmental assessment.

■ The FAA issuing the final environmental determination.

“After the environmental assessment is complete, land acquisition and design can start concurrently,” Koppelberger said. “The time required to acquire the land will exceed that required for the design.”

Michalak said he believes the city has been working on getting the project completed for at least the last eight years.