The Department of Transportation plans on spending $240 million this construction season in Northern and Western Alaska. A large chunk of that money will go towards continued improvements to Nome’s airport.
“It will focus on extending the runway 600 feet,” says DOT Information Officer Meadow Bailey. “We’ll also be doing some taxi upgrades, and then there will be some safety improvements so we can make sure we’re meeting FAA standards.”
While the $26.6 million price tag for the project is high, Bailey says that’s the cost of business in rural Alaska’s brief construction season.
“This is a really big project for us. Runways tend to have a high cost associated with them, as far as the equipment coming, being shipped up if there’s compactors or specific equipment that’s needed, the asphalt.”
The runway improvements will allow heavier planes to land in a wider range of weather, and bring Nome’s facilities closer to federal aviation safety standards.
The contract bid was secured by Anchorage-based Quality Asphalt Paving, a subsidiary of the Colaska company—which is, itself, owned by the multinational Colas group. Though the contract has a two-year window, the company told the DOT they anticipate finishing ahead of that schedule if the weather cooperates.
Work on the airport will start in mid-May. Partial closures and overnight interruptions will begin June 12th, though Bailey says disruptions are unlikely to affect passengers.
“Whenever we do airport work or runway work we work very closely with FAA and with the carriers—like Alaska Airlines and the smaller carriers who work in that airport—so we’re hoping the closures will be minimal.”
Bailey adds that airport infrastructure and maintenance is an especially big priority in Alaska, where 82% of communities are not accessible by road.