The Roane County Commission will discuss the Oak Ridge Airport, which would be built at Heritage Center, the former K-25 site, during a workshop next week.
The workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, December 7, in the Qualls Commission Room at the Roane County Courthouse.
Oak Ridge Today reported in March that there are additional steps and approvals required, but if all goes well, construction on the airport could start in late 2018 or early 2019.
The airport could still cost an estimated $35 million to $40 million, officials said at the time. It would be funded with a mix of federal funding, state aeronautical commission funding, and local funding from the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, or MKAA.
The MKAA General Aviation Committee approved an airport layout plan during a meeting at McGhee Tyson Airport in Alcoa in March. The plan was going to be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for review and approval after that meeting. The airport layout plan is a detailed document that includes runway lengths, approaches, runway ramps, and taxiways.
The Oak Ridge Airport, which could accommodate general aviation and corporate aircraft but not airlines, would be on the south side of Heritage Center, the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge. It would have a 5,000-foot runway running parallel to State Route 58 that would accommodate nearly all corporate aircraft. Airport construction could take about 1.5 years, MKAA President Bill Marrison said earlier this year.
The FAA has already approved the site, Marrison said.
Heritage Center is in the Roane County portion of Oak Ridge.
Here is more information from an Oak Ridge Today story published March 15:
The airport could be expanded later with a full taxiway, more hangars, more ramps, and another 1,000 feet of runway. The runway could also be widened from 75 feet to 100 feet. The larger runway could serve the largest general aviation aircraft.
Forty aircraft are expected to be based there at first, in different types of hangars, including group and individual hangars.
“It helps us accommodate the region,” Marrison said. The airport would be the third for the MKAA, expected to help accommodate the region. Airplane hangars are full at McGhee Tyson Airport and at Downtown Island Airport in Knoxville, which has a 3,500-foot runway and a waiting list.
“We have a need,” Marrison said.
Also, the general aviation airport will make the industrial parks in west Oak Ridge more attractive, Marrison said.
The airport will serve airplanes flying under instrument flying rules, or IFR, in addition to those flying under visual flying rules, or VFR. There won’t be a control tower at the airport; instead, aircraft will be controlled out of McGhee Tyson, Marrison said.
The airport layout plan that was sent to the FAA in March could be considered by the full MKAA board later, after it’s received back from the FAA.
The U.S. Department of Energy is ready to transfer about 170 acres to the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority subject to FAA approval, said Billy Stair, one of the presenters at the March meeting.
Stair said some airport-related issues are being worked on in parallel with the master plan. They include, for example, a potential re-routing of Blair Road and a DOE haul road, building demolition, and issues related to power lines and a railroad.
“We’re working on all these issues,” said Stair, a former communications director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “I have the sense today that they’re all going to work out.”
He said there are direct and indirect funding sources:
- Department of Energy (land)
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- Tennessee Aeronautics Commission
- Tennessee Department of Transportation
Although he couldn’t list specific commitments from all the agencies, Stair said he is confident that enough money will be generated for the project if the cost estimate is sound.
If the FAA approves the site plan, Stair said he believes the other issues will be solved.
The airport project started with a 2009 request from the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, or CROET, which redevelops former federal property for private commercial and industrial use. Since then, the project has involved a large number of local, state, and federal “stakeholders,” Stair said. He said it has broad political support, including from the state’s governor and legislative delegation, Oak Ridge City Council and Roane County Commission, state and federal agencies, the business community, and regional pilots.
There were three milestones in the first phase of the project: identifying potential sites in 2011, evaluating design and costs in 2012, and defining the uses and economic benefits in 2013, Stair said.
Heritage Center, also known as East Tennessee Technology Park, was selected because it had the best combination of costs, access, economic assets, and environmental compatibility, Stair said.
The project became eligible for FAA funding in January 2015, when it was included in the National Program of Integrated Airport Systems. In August that year, the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission funded development of an airport master plan.
The final phase has six milestones, Stair said:
- DOE finding of no significant impact (January 2016),
- develop master plan (April 2017),
- FAA review of master plan,
- secure funding sources,
- transfer land, and
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2017 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.