U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran told The Mercury on Thursday that he is committed to helping Manhattan Regional Airport meet its goal of building a 150-foot-wide runway.
The Federal Aviation Administration told the city in March that the airport could proceed with a 150-foot-wide runway, but then retracted this statement in November, stating the airport is only eligible for a runway that is 100 feet wide.
The Manhattan City Commission discussed this topic during a work session in November, and Moran, who lives in Manhattan and uses the airport frequently for travel, said he continues to work on the issue with Jesse Romo, airport director.
“I share frustration with the Manhattan community that the FAA erred in an early eligibility determination and I have expressed this frustration to the FAA,” Moran said in an email to The Mercury.
The FAA stated it could provide funding up to 90% of the cost toward a 100-foot-wide-runway instead.
Moran, a member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he supports the city’s goal to get the FAA to provide 90% of funding for the 150-foot-wide runway.
The airport’s runway is 150 feet wide now, and that’s the size the city wants to implement as Kansas State University and Fort Riley need this size for takeoffs, according to officials.
“This is not a typical airport,” Moran said. “MHK has unique features that not only involve frequent travelers in the region, but the movement of troops and equipment from Fort Riley and necessary access for K-State and their athletics program.”
There are two options for runway repairs, rubblization or a complete reconstruction. Officials said the current runway’s surface is eroding, but does not have any significant structural issues.
Rubblization is a technique that reduces the surface into rubble and then adds an overlay of concrete. It is cheaper than a complete reconstruction.
The estimated cost for rubblization, with no phasing, is $39.2 million. With phasing, it is estimated at $40 million.
A complete reconstruction of the runway is higher at $45.1 million with no phasing and $48.1 million with phasing.
If the FAA only provides the amount it would give for a 100-foot runway, the city may pay around $8 million to $9 million for the 150-foot project.
Cost estimates for the project vary, and officials said in November that the numbers need to be reanalyzed for accuracy.
The airport will have to close for a period of time no matter what because of runway construction, officials said in November.