Aiport taxiway weeks away

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AUBURN – Crews could start digging a new taxiway for the Twin Cities’ airport next month, now that the project has the money it needs.

Manager Rick Cloutier said he plans to pick a contractor to build the 5,000-foot-long parallel taxiway at the Auburn Lewiston Municipal Airport in the next couple of weeks.

“By mid-August, we should see the construction started,” he said. “Then it’s another four months of work, getting it ready to go.”

The airport announced last week that it was getting two federal grants, totaling nearly $4.5 million for different aspects of the taxiway project.

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The Federal Aviation Administration gave the airport a $71,250 grant to purchase 25 acres of land off of South Main Street. That land will be deeded to the Androscoggin Land Trust in trade for building the taxiway onto an existing wetland on airport property.

Another $4.4 million was released later in the week, and Cloutier said that would pay for the actual construction of the taxiway.

The airport was built with two landing strips. That might have been sufficient at one time, but the airport has become the third-busiest in Maine.

Auburn-Lewiston air traffic accounts for about 10 percent of the total in Maine, according to a 2006 master plan. Maine’s air traffic is expected to increase by 40 percent over the next 20 years, and the local airport should keep pace.

The taxiway will run parallel to the north-south-aligned runway, giving planes preparing to take off a place to wait and providing a quick exit for planes that have just landed.

“This is an important safety project for us because we are getting busier,” Cloutier said. “We’re in the situation now where we have multiple planes waiting to use our runway, but having to wait while other planes taxi off.”

Cloutier said the work won’t affect airport traffic until later this fall, possibly as late as December.

Crews will make sure the runway is completely open and unobstructed at night.

“And we’ll put out an FAA bulletin warning pilots of the project during the day, when we get to that point,” he said. “It should only impact the runway for a couple of days.”

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