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The terminal at Manhattan Regional Airport

No matter which option the Manhattan City Commission selects for improvements at the Manhattan Regional Airport, the airport will have to close for a period of time for construction completion.

The length of the closure and when it will close is still up in the air as the city weighs two options for runway repairs, either a complete reconstruction or rubblizing of the runway.

Manhattan city commissioners discussed the updates to the airport master plan Tuesday at a work session aimed to inform the commission about funding estimates and information about the runway.

Rubblization — a construction technique that reduces the existing surface into rubble and then adds a concrete overlay — is a cheaper option. Officials estimating the total cost at $39.2 million, with no phasing, and $40 million if the city opts to move forward with the project in phases.

Complete reconstruction costs are estimated at a higher cost at $45.1 million without phasing and $48.1 million with phasing.

Officials presented these estimated numbers for the project, but they expect the cost to fluctuate depending on inflation and available grants in the future.

In regard to the timeline for the project, officials estimate planning to last until 2020 with design beginning in 2021 and construction lasting from 2022 to 2024.

Construction for rubblization could last for 95 days while complete construction is estimated to last for 146 days.

Days that the airport must close for construction varies depending on which option the city decides and if they decide to do it in phases or not.

Officials said the runway doesn’t have significant structural issues right now, but the surface is eroding.

The current length of the runway is 7,000 feet, and the airport wants to extend that to 7,400 feet. No matter if the city decides to rubblize or reconstruct the runway completely, it will be in the same spot as the current one, just extended.

The airport aims to construct a 150-foot-wide runway despite the Federal Aviation Association funding up to 90% of the cost toward a 100-foot-wide runway.

“Those things are up in the air,” said Jesse Romo, director of the Manhattan Regional Airport. “The FAA is quick to tell you that they can’t guarantee future funding.

The FAA said the airport is only eligible for funding for a 100-feet-wide runway because the airport has less than 500 flights taking off annually and aircraft weighing less than 150,000 pounds.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had some conversations that have gone in circles too,” he continued.

The runway is 150 feet wide currently.

The FAA told the city in a letter in March that the airport could proceed with the larger runway, but retracted that statement in a Nov. 1 letter stating that the airport is only eligible for a 100-foot runway width.

If the FAA only provided the amount it would give for a 100-foot runway, the city is on the hook for paying around $8 to $9 million for a 150-foot project, but officials said those numbers need to be analyzed again for accuracy. Butler said he wanted to know the updated financial costs in the future.

“I’m interested in somebody crunching those, because people are going to be talking about (what) exactly is this going to be, so that’s the big one,” Butler said.

It’s important for Kansas State University to have access to a 150-feet-wide runway to allow for charter plans for football and basketball team to take off, said Linda Cook, chief of staff at K-State. Fort Riley also needs this size for takeoffs, officials said.

Some city commissioners expressed they want to comply with this request as they don’t want to lose business to neighboring airports such as in Salina, Topeka or even in Kansas City.

“I don’t want to have the communities on either side of us to have the 150 feet and we get stuck with the 100 feet,” said commissioner Linda Morse.

Commissioners Wynn Butler and Jerred McKee grappled with how the city will pay for these expenses after voters rejected the 0.3% sales tax measure in the general election last week.

That measure planned to fund improvements at the airport.

Commissioner Usha Reddi said she wants to hear more information as the project moves forward.

Commissioners ultimately did not elaborate on which option they prefer — rubblization or complete reconstruction — but plan to discuss these options further in the future.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners:

Heard a report from Lee Wolf, CEO of the Konza Prairie Community Health Center. Wolf said the center, which has facilities in both Manhattan and Junction City, aims to keep patients out of the emergency room by providing care. The center had 33,806 patient visits and assisted 12,805 patients in 2018.