Hartford airport ‘unlikely’ to be finished by 2016
FAA ‘has no idea’ when work will be done


April 2, 2015

Recent light at the end of the tunnel that is the Hartford Airport runway expansion appears to be a train heading in the wrong direction — fast.

Last month, officials were told the Federal Aviation Administration was reviewing an environmental assessment which was not expected to take long. Things have changed since then.

Last week, Airport Manager Darryl Kranz and Airport Committee Chairman Bob Gehring attended a meeting involving project engineers Mead and Hunt, officials from the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics and the FAA.

“The FAA indicates it has no idea when its work will be finished. Everyone assumes it will not be until at least 2016 that any serious land acquisition can take place,” City Administrator Gary Koppelberger said.

Koppelberger believes completion is likely pushed back to at least 2017, possibly 2018.

“That makes the project longer to complete than World War II,” Koppelberger said.

He said the city has been working for nearly 14 years on the runway work.

“The city proposed a new, east-west runway in early 2001 based on a runway feasibility study for the airport conducted by Mead & Hunt and filed with the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics,” Koppelberger said. “All subsequent actions by the city are based on that initial study, including the development and approval of our runway layout plan and eventually the current airport master plan.”

The city’s goal has been to finish the work before the U.S. Open Golf Championship on June 12-18, 2017, at Erin Hills Golf Course.

Mayor Joe Dautermann said the process has grown even more frustrating.

“Especially so now because a short time ago we were told it was reasonably certain we’d complete this next year. Now that’s unlikely,” Dautermann said.

Paul Strege, an engineer for Mead and Hunt, which has been working on the project for the city, said some of the delay is due to the FAA’s review of the environmental impact assessment.

“They want to ensure the document is accurate and has the proper level of detail,” Strege said.

Matt Malicki of the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, who along with the FAA is reviewing the project’s environmental assessment, said rules over runway protection zones have slowed the process.

“In the beginning with new rules it takes longer to get through the process,” Malicki said. “The law requires a determination of whether there are land uses that are incompatible with a runway extension within those zones. If there are, it has to be determined what can be done to eliminate the incompatibility.”

Malicki said he also doubts any construction can begin until at least 2017.

“It’s unlikely anything could be done next year because a lot of time will be needed to complete the necessary land purchases and that can’t be started until the environmental assessment gains final approval,” Malicki said. “Even if construction were to begin in early 2017 I doubt the entire project could be done by the city’s target date.”

The city was working for months to convince the FAA to grant an exception to a rule which would not allow expansion and realignment of the runway. The city was notified in December the FAA reversed an earlier decision and agreed to allow the runway reconstruction.

<<EARLIER: Environmental review underway for airport work