by Mickey Smith
MORRISTOWN – Proposed paving of the Morrisville-Stowe Airport most likely will mean the airport will be closed for most, if not all, of next summer.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is looking to repave the runway, shifting it 90 feet to the south (toward Stowe) in the process. The process would involve “full-depth reconstruction of the runway pavement,” according to a plan filed by VTrans for permits from the U.S. Army of Engineers. A culvert will also be replaced. About 1,241 square feet will be impacted in the project (518 sq. ft. of wet meadow, temporary impacts to 131 sq. feet of stream bottom, permanent impacts to about 248 sq. ft. of stream bottom and 344 sq. ft. of timber mats temporarily placed in a wetland at the north end of the runway). Along with this work, there will be the selective removal of trees from 4.157 acres of forested wetland.
The tree removal work will be done on private land, and is described as the cutting of trees over 30 to 50 feet high, with retention of small trees and brush. Other methods, such as topping, could be considered if property owners request. The permit application states “no grubbing or other ground disturbance would occur in the tree removal areas.”
Unlike previous plans, the new plan does not change the overall length of the paved runway. It will remain at 3,967 feet, 33 feet shy of 4,000 feet, which is the minimum required to allow jets to land on the runway. That plan has been met with opposition from neighbors in the past, citing an increase in traffic and noise. Current plans call to shift the runway 90 feet to the south when paving, which would result in the removal of 90 feet of pavement from the north end of the runway. This work will result in the disruption about 900 sq. ft. of the impacted area. As compensation for “unavoidable impacts to waters,” VTrans is proposing a $163,729.60 payment to Ducks Unlimited – Vermont In Lieu Fee Program.
The hope is to start the project as soon as the weather permits in the spring. It is estimated the project will take about five months.
Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 77 covers “Objects Affecting Navigable Airspace” beyond the ends of a runway. Objects that are classified as airspace obstructions must be removed to safely accommodate approaching and departing aircraft.