TX: Athens Officials Discuss Airport Expansion at TxDOT Conference

April 06–Several Athens officials attended the 36th Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Conference at Moody Gardens in Galveston last week as they seek money to expand the city’s airport.

Mayor Monte Montgomery said the feedback was positive for the Athens expansion, but the process will take several years. He said he expects to give an update on the conference at a city council meeting on Monday.

Appearing on behalf of the city were Montgomery, Assistant Manager Thanasis Kombos, Athens Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Lisa Denton and Athens Airport Board members Charlie Tidmore, John Cain and Larry Babb.

Athens officials met privately with Dave Fulton, director of TxDOT’s Aviation Division.

"He told us that right now, we have done everything exactly as we should and how they like to see it," Montgomery said. "He told us we have a true need for airport expansion."

Fulton told the Athens delegation he would like the city to buy more land for the project.

"He also told us he would like to see us come in with our committal on what we thought we could do over the next five years," Montgomery said.

TxDOT officials will take several years to bring in the $20 million needed for the expansion, Montgomery said.

"He did feel that we are possibly the top city in the state that could use these funds. Everything in that meeting was very positive and very optimistic for the city."

Montgomery said he talked to Gainesville’s mayor about that city’s airport expansion to a 6,000-foot runway.

"They are on a major highway, but they’re 60 miles from Dallas — kind of like we are," Montgomery said. "They said their extended runway has been a huge boost to their economic development, so that gives me a little more reassurance."

The existing Athens runway is just under 4,000 feet long, which officials say is insufficient for larger aircraft. That places Athens at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding cities that have more suitable airports.

The airport master plan shows that expansion of the runway can be accomplished in three phases. The first five years is preparing for the new runway. The next five years is the start of construction, bringing the runway to 5,500 feet. The long-range plan would cover another 10 years, with the ultimate runway length being expanded to about 6,500 feet.

Based on the plan, a preliminary estimate of the total cost is $24.8 million. The goal is to get a 90 percent grant from TxDOT, with a 10 percent match.

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