A flashing “X” signals the closed runway as crews work on a repaving project at the Juneau International Airport in 2015. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A flashing “X” signals the closed runway as crews work on a repaving project at the Juneau International Airport in 2015. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Grant nets Juneau airport over $25M for maintenance, repairs

The grant is part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Project

Juneau International Airport on Friday received the last $6.4 million of a total $25.4 million federal grant for taxiway maintenance and for an emergency generator to supplement the airport’s emergency lighting system.

“It impacts everybody, including our helicopter operators,” JIA manager Patty Wahto said.

The grant is part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, which gives money to airports to help keep facilities up to spec. The maintenance to the asphalt taxiways and generator is not expected to have significant effects on travel time, Wahto said. Minor portions of the repairs may take place over the winter, said Wahto, but the majority will be carried out over two construction seasons, from April till September or October of 2020 and 2021.

“It’s time. It needs to be done to keep it in functional order,” Wahto said, speaking about the taxiway maintenance. “If you don’t, you can get what’s called foreign object damage.”

Also called FOD, foreign object damage is when small pieces of material — be it rocks, parts, or tools on a runway — get ingested into an engine and destroy the turbine, often catastrophically. FOD damage caused the crash of the Concorde in France in 2000, killing 113 people.

A new sand building under construction in addition to the new maintenance project about to get underway at the Juneau International Airport on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A new sand building under construction in addition to the new maintenance project about to get underway at the Juneau International Airport on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“The thing they’ll see the most of is the other construction on the other terminal,” Wahto said. “That’s a whole other project.”

The construction schedule is affected by the weather, Wahto said, but there is slippage built into the construction schedule to allow for streaks of rain.

“If we have a really rainy season, it may suspend when we do some of the paving,” Wahto said.

Wahto said that most of the autumn will be taken up getting approval from the Assembly of the City and Borough of Juneau, lining up contractors and materials, and preparing to start the project in earnest in 2020. The project is the latest in a series of recent improvements for Juneau’s airport, but Wahto said with the completion of this maintenance and the finish of the terminal project, the schedule of major projects should be clear for a few years.

“We’re ready to get moving and get this project behind us,” Wahto said.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


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