The Hilton Head Island Airport has received a $13 million grant to pay for safety improvements that include relocating a taxiway and trimming trees.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which awarded the grant, requires the work after the airport's classification was upgraded to accommodate larger, faster planes, county airports director Jon Rembold said.
The majority of the FAA grant would cover relocating Taxiway A about 100 feet to the east. Since the $8 million taxiway project will cut into a section of the general aviation parking area, a new parking area will be built and require some tree removal, Rembold said.
The taxiway relocation is the largest of the upcoming projects at the airport, including extensive earthwork and drainage components, Rembold said. Construction will begin this year and take about a year.
The grant will also help the county acquire property for trimming and removing trees at the south end of the runway near William Hilton Parkway, mostly on off-airport property, to improve flight safety, Rembold said. The county has been buying land around the airport for the last 18 months, and one building on Dillon Road will be demolished for the taxiway relocation, he said. The airport is also acquiring the land to keep it free of buildings for flight safety, Rembold said.
The grant will not be used for a project to extend the airport's runway from 4,300 to 5,000 feet, which is part of the airport master plan approved in 2010, Rembold said. Bidding on the runway construction has not begun. Construction is expected to start in late 2016 or early 2017.
The runway project's cost was estimated at $9.25 million by county officials in February, with 95 percent of that money coming from federal and state grants.
Most of the building demolition around the airport will be tied to the runway extension, Rembold said.
The Deep Well Project, which was located in one building slated to be demolished, moved last month to a new building on Capital Drive a few miles south of the airport.
The extended runway length was based on commercial passenger aircraft that was flying in and out of the airport in 2009 and 2010, Rembold said. Planes currently flying to Hilton Head Airport cannot fly at full capacity because of the short runway. Officials from Delta Air Lines -- which announced it was discontinuing service to Hilton Head the same day the new master plan was approved -- said in 2010 that a 5,000-foot runway could accommodate regional jets with restricted loads.
U.S. Airways Express is currently the airport's remaining commercial carrier, but all flights under that name will be rebranded as American Eagle starting Saturday as part of American Airlines' acquisition of U.S. Airways.
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