Land buy to help ease safety concerns at Marco Island airport

Aerial of Marco Island Airport as shown on Collier County tourism office's Web site

Aerial of Marco Island Airport as shown on Collier County tourism office's Web site

— The Marco Island Executive Airport is one step closer to getting a taxiway thanks to a federal grant. But it will need nearly $6 million more before the project can take off.

Operating without a taxiway at the publicly owned general aviation airport is a major safety concern for aircraft, officials said.

The airport uses its runway as a taxiway. A mix of aircraft, including privately owned, charter and training planes, have to land and taxi down the runway while other aircraft are waiting to land or take off.

It is the only 5,000-foot runway in the state that accommodates jet traffic without a taxiway, according to airport officials.

Marco Aviation chief pilot and flight instructor Rick Croasdale said it not only is a safety issue and an inconvenience for pilots, it often wastes time and fuel.

“It has been sorely needed,” said Croasdale, who has been flying at the Marco Island airport for 30 years.

During peak traffic times, aircraft have to wait on the ramp for sometimes 30 minutes, waiting to taxi for departure.

Croasdale said there is always the danger of a collision when an aircraft is landing on the runway and one is getting ready for departure.

The airport received a $247,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for the acquisition of 2.73 acres from WCI Communities Inc. The total cost of the land is $260,000 and the county will provide the matching $13,000.

As part of the taxiway project, the airport will relocate the vehicle parking area to a recently purchased piece of property. In addition, the airport will expand the aircraft apron onto the current vehicle parking area, said Debbie Brueggeman, operations coordinator for the Collier County Airport Authority.

At a meeting this past Tuesday, Collier County commissioners approved an “after-the-fact acceptance” of the grant offer and associated budget amendments.

The environmental permitting and wetland mitigation process to construct the taxiway has taken about 10 years, Brueggeman said.

The Collier County Airport Authority has completed all work and received all necessary permits to bid the project and can begin construction once all funding is in place.

The new $6 million taxiway is to be 5,000 feet long by 35 feet wide and will run parallel to the runway. The airport has the money to complete the design, but not construction.

Because the project has been done in phases, Brueggeman said a total cost isn’t available.

About $1.1 million has been spent on permitting and mitigation for the construction of the taxiway, which includes more than $500,000 in FAA grants and more than $475,000 in Florida Department of Transportation grants, Brueggeman wrote in an e-mail.

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Follow transportation reporter Tracy X. Miguel at twitter.com/ndn_tmiguel

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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