An Alaska Airlines jet takes off at the Nome airport. Photo: David Dodman. Used with permission.

Nome’s airport was recently awarded $21,592,418 to rehabilitate its runway. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last week that the funding is a portion of roughly $80 million being disbursed to various airports across the state of Alaska.

Kirk Shaffer, the associate administrator for airports with the FAA in Washington D.C., says millions of dollars will be used to begin rehabilitating Nome’s airport this year, but not replace it.

“No matter what you build an operating surface from, whether it’s concrete or asphalt or whatever, it’s got an expected life…and once that surface begins to approach the end of its expected life, it can start to deteriorate and then you run into safety problems like foreign object debris.”

The Alaska Department of Transportation has done its own projects at the Nome airport over the last five plus years, including extending the runway, rehabilitating portions of the runway, and adding security fencing around the perimeter. However, this year the funding is coming from the FAA through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and CARES Act grants.

According to the DOT, Nome’s airport cost $1,852,261.45 to operate in fiscal year 2018.

Bird's eye view of Nome's airport. Nome Gold's property is to the east of the east/west runway. Photo: Alaska Department of Transportation.
Bird’s eye view of Nome’s airport. Nome Gold’s property is to the east of the east/west runway. Photo: Alaska Department of Transportation (2014).

Shaffer also points out that the price of repairing or rehabilitating Nome’s airport is so high due to the permafrost and the cost of getting construction materials to a city off of the road system. In the last three years, airports across Alaska (including Nome’s) have received $1,026,000,000 in FAA funds, but Shaffer says those are necessary expenses.

“We’ve got to keep the runways and taxiways and ramps up to specifications and good operating conditions so that the airport’s capacity is maintained; and then we don’t end up with delays and congestion and things like that.”

Several other rural airports in Alaska will be getting some FAA funding for infrastructure improvements as well, however Shaffer did not have the names of those specific communities.

Image at top: An Alaska Airlines jet takes off at the Nome airport. Photo: David Dodman. Used with permission.

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