Airport project awaits FAA operation

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford was pleasantly surprised Tuesday to see three low bids for the third phase of airport construction. Unfortunately, a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration leaves the city in limbo moving forward.

The third phase of the Troy Municipal Airport’s runway expansion project is set to pave and add lighting to the 6,500-foot runway that has been added to the airport. The apparent low-bidder Tuesday was Wiregrass Construction Co., Inc., of Dothan, with a just more than $1.5 million bid.

“That’s a fabulous bid. We expected it to be over $2 million,” Lunsford said.

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Of the three bids, in fact, none exceeded $1.8 million. The other two came from APAC and Newell Road Builders, Inc.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Senate failed to undo the stalemate that partially shut down the FAA 12 days ago, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. House Republicans moved a bill in the Senate that called for $16.5 million as subsidy cuts, a deal breaker for Senate Democrats.

Senate Democrats were unable to pass their own bill without the cuts. As a result of the halt in the FAA’s operating authority, nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been laid off. In addition, the agency is unable to collect about $30 million in airline ticket taxes. The AP reports if Congress doesn’t address the issue until it resumes session in September, the FAA will lose about $1.2 billion in anticipated revenues.

The Troy runway expansion, a $6 million project, has been 95 percent funded by the FAA. The other 5 percent is split evenly by the City of Troy and the State of Alabama.

“The money is approved, and we feel sure since this came in way under budget,” Lunsford said. “But the fight between the Democrats and Republicans has got FAA strangled, and we are at their mercy.”

Lead Design Engineer Stanley Price, with Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon, Inc., said the engineers will be ready to go as soon as the FAA is able to give the final OK.

Originally, Lunsford said the plans would be to approve bids at the next Troy City Council meeting Aug. 9. “Now we just don’t know,” Lunsford said. “It would be a shame to lose this absolutely fabulous bid.”

The hope is for the entire project to be completed before the end of the year.