Virginia Tech’s airport has been awarded a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to renovate and expand its runway.
The grant, part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, will be used to make “much-needed improvements” to the Virginia Tech-Montgomery Executive Airport’s 4,500-foot-long runway, according to a press release from Rick Boucher, the U.S. representative for Virginia’s ninth district who helped secure the funds.
Specifically, the grant will cover 95 percent of the costs for safety renovations to the runway — although a later expansion of the runway to 5,500 feet is also planned.
“The reason for the project is the age of the existing infrastructure,” said Michael St. Jean, airport director. “It was determined that the runway needed to be rehabilitated.”
Applications for funds, including core samplings, pictures and cracks from the runway, were sent to both the FAA and Virginia Department of Aviation. The renovations, among other things, will make the runway safe for users traveling from farther away and enhance protection in case of scenarios such as engine failure.
The airport is “shifting the runway at the same time they’re going to extend (it),” according to Larry Hincker, university spokesman, moving it 900 feet to the west while elongating it.
“From an economic development standpoint, from a safety standpoint, from a stage life standpoint, business perspective—all of those are (reasons),” St. Jean said.
However, any future expansions are predicated on the successful completion of an environmental assessment study, he said.
Virginia Tech’s nearby Corporate Research Center stands to benefit from these developments. The airport is just 0.3 miles away and serves as a vital transportation hub. The CRC also has its own plans for expansion.
“A lot of people think that our expansion is going to cause some relocation of all the barns and things like that, but that’s not true at all,” said Joe Meredith, CRC president.
Some buildings will eventually be displaced to accommodate the CRC, he said, but this will take several more years.
The CRC’s $4 million Phase II expansion efforts move the park up to the Huckleberry Trail to accommodate tenant demand for space. It is currently in the process of completing its own environmental, archaeological and wetlands assessments.
Currently there is only room for one more building at the center, which facilitates sponsored research and technology transfer between the private sector and the university. It already hosts more than 140 companies, recruited or home-grown.
The Virginia Tech-Montgomery Executive Airport has its origins in a 1913 flying field set up outside the Blacksburg town limits. In 1931, the “Virginia Tech Airport” officially opened for business 1.5 miles from campus and was used to help train cadets in the build-up to World War II.
The airport, administered by a municipal authority comprised of Tech, Montgomery County and the towns of Christiansburg and Blacksburg, currently occupies 255 acres of land. Renamed in 2002, it serves today as a transportation link between the university and regional hubs such as the Roanoke and New River Valley airports.