CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport has won $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate its weathered and cracked main runway.
The airport, a division of Pinellas County government, will commit $3.43 million of its own funds and is getting another $900,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation for a project expected to cost a total of $24.1 million.
The money comes as the airport is in the ninth year of year-over-year growth and is on a pace to break last year’s all-time record of more than 2.2 million passengers. That growth drives tourism and makes the airport a “vital economic engine” for the county, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said in an announcement of the grants on Friday.
“Local businesses, residents and travelers all benefit from these federal dollars to assist (the airport) with their important expansion and modernization projects,” Crist said.
Pinellas County commissioners are expected next month to consider a contract with Ajax Paving Industries of Florida to repave the runway and add new lights along its edges. Ajax, based in Sarasota County, submitted the lower of two bids for the project.
The project is scheduled to be complete by spring 2021.
Airport officials say the project will improve safety and increase the runway’s load-bearing capacity. The most recent assessment of the runway found weathered and cracked pavement, with conditions ranging from satisfactory to poor, according to county records.
“As we continue the break passenger records year after year, first and foremost are safe operations,” airport director Tom Jewsbury said in a statement. One of the grants, for about $11.6 million, is the largest competitively awarded discretionary grant in the airport’s history.
The runway to be rehabilitated, known as 18-36, is a north-south runway with an alignment parallel to the Bayside Bridge. During construction, the airport will be using its secondary runaway, known as 4-22, which has more of a northeast-to-southwest alignment.
“The rehabilitation of our main runway 18-36 will be completed in phases,” airport spokeswoman Michele Routh said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “There will be a phase of the project that will require a temporary shift of operations — take-offs and landings — to the secondary runway 4-22.”
Meanwhile, the airport is in the midst of a multi-faceted effort to upgrade its terminal, bring in new restaurants and reconfigure its parking lot. Work on the parking lot is being done in conjunction with the creation of the Gateway Expressway, a $580 million limited-access highway that will connect U.S. 19 with Interstate 275.
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times