500 Terminal Drive, Naples, FL
NAPLES — The Naples Airport Authority is moving forward with the airport’s controversial runway extension project.
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the City of Naples Airport Authority environmental assessment to pave the safety areas at both ends of the main runway. The FAA’s environmental approval response, a Finding of No Significant Impact, clears the way for the airport to add pavement in established grass safety areas, according to a prepared statement.
Construction to extend both ends of Naples Municipal Airport’s main runway began Monday morning.
After working on the runway project for more than one year, the airport’s executive director Ted Soliday said: “It’s good to get on with what is best for our community.”
“The airport authority’s priorities are sound attenuation, safety and service. Adding runway pavement furthers all three,” Soliday said in a prepared statement. “This may be the most significant step we can take to reduce aircraft-takeoff noise.”
The authority plans to extend the runway’s safety zones by 510 feet on the south end and 800 feet on the north end. This would increase the declared distance of the runway to 5,800 feet for takeoff, but it would remain 5,000 feet for landing.
Runway 5/23 will be closed for duration of construction, which is scheduled to be completed before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The timing of approval allows us to complete the runway work when the airport is less busy,” Soliday said in a prepared statement. “Closing the runway is a regrettable inconvenience for some pilots, but the long-term benefits of the project make it worthwhile.”
Aside from noise reduction, airport officials have maintained that the expansion of the runway also would enhance safety for aircraft and become more competitive for commercial airline services.
Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said the majority of the public supported the project. Barnett said he doesn’t think the runway extension will bring noisier aircraft, nor ruin Naples in any which way, shape or form.
“I think the end result will be a positive one for the entire community,” Barnett said.
Naples City Council approved the airport’s runway extension 4-3 on March 16, after a 10-hour meeting.
Alan Parker, a manager of the runway extension opponents group, is disappointed with the FAA’s approval.
“We think the FAA’s ruling is a mistake,” said Parker, Citizens Against Runway Extension manager and Old Naples Association board member. “It’s a sad outcome.”
Once the runway is extended, the group says the 75,000-pound plane weight restriction no longer will be enforced and commercial service jets of 100,000 pounds will fly in Naples.
But airport officials have stated before that they plan to maintain the 75,000-pound plane weight restriction.
Parker said the expansion will take away from the quality of life in the city. In addition, he questions the potential pollution to the Gordon River and Naples Bay.
Parker will see what can be done, if anything.
The airport authority, which receives no city or county tax dollars, is paying $3.2 million for the airport’s runway extension.
Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. is the general contractor, and Kimley-Horn and Associates is providing engineering services.
In approving Naples Airport Layout Plan, which includes the paving project, the FAA found “the proposed airport development shown on the plan useful and efficient.”
Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/