Soldotna lands FAA grant to upgrade main runway

Nov 22, 2019

Soldotna Airport's main runway will be closed this summer for a project to flatten a hump, pave it and add new lighting.
Credit City of Soldotna

The Soldotna Airport closed its paved runway Thursday for survey and geotechnical work to take a look at ground and subsurface conditions in advance of a project this summer. The gravel strip was open for traffic.

City engineer and airport manager, Kyle Kornelis, says the project will take out a hump in the runway that's pronounced enough to maybe run afoul of FAA requirements for visibility.

A pilot is supposed to be able to see an object 5 feet off the centerline of the runway a certain distance away. Kornelis says it’s close to being out of compliance. Part of the work yesterday was meant to determine exactly how big and bad a hump it is and how much work is going to be required to remove it.

As Alaskans know, surface problems usually run deep. So the geotechnical work will determine how much material will need to be dug out and refilled to fix the problem.

The city got a $7 million grant from the FAA to pay for the project, with 100 percent cost forgiveness, so the city won’t have to excavate any of its funds. The project also includes new asphalt, painting and edge lighting.

It’ll likely be a lengthy process and it will impact airport operations. The gravel strip will remain open, and an alternate runway will be created on a taxiway parallel to the main runway while that one’s shut down.

Kenai Flight Services will have all that information for pilots, and Kornelis says there will be physical changes at the airport to indicate which runway is open. The taxiway does have edge lighting, and the project will have to meet FAA safety requirements. Kornelis says the Soldotna airport has a good community of pilots who are conscientious about following the rules.

Kornelis says the city finished an asphalt-sealing project this past summer and this summer expects to finish construction of a new building to house snow removal equipment.