Runway rehabilitation project at Myrtle Beach airport needs more funding; may impact late, early flights

Myrtle Beach International Airport is looking to find ways to fund a possible $3.4 million shortfall in a major runway rehabilitation project that will run from the fall to next spring.

The project will be done overnight from August through March 31 and is aimed to create as little of a nuisance as possible to passengers, and its impact to passengers flying late night or early morning is not yet known.

The rehabilitation comes amid a flurry of improvements the airport has made in the last few years, including the addition of a $118 million, 274,000-square-foot terminal and a $2.1 million parking lot improvement project this spring that will add 575 parking spaces to the credit card parking lot when completed this year.

In 2009, the Horry County Department of Airports decided Myrtle Beach’s lone 9,500 foot runway needed to be rehabilitated. Planning and design work began in 2012 and lasted through the end of last year with estimates reaching $19.4 million for the total project cost. Between the Federal Aviation Administration and the airport, the agencies have earmarked about $16 million.

Jason Terreri, a new assistant director of airports for Horry County, said there are three options for funding: apply for additional federal grants, have the matching local funds for federal funds or use entitlement grants, which is future grant money already pledged to the airport.

“The estimates came in higher than what was expected,” Terreri said, adding the actual bids for the project are not due until June 20. “The real difference of why you’re seeing this number escalated up a little bit is really because it’s based on the 60 percent design drawings and looking at some constructability issues... we’ve included a taxiway overlay and a lighting project.”

From August through September, materials will be delivered to the airport and the site will be prepared for the start of major construction in October. From Oct. 4 through Nov. 21, the runway will be paved between 10:45 p.m. and 6:45 a.m. during the week and 11:45 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. during the weekend. From November through the end of March, the runway edge lighting system will be replaced, the pavement will be grooved and permanently marked and grass and mulch will be replaced. The rehabilitation has a 20-year life expectancy.

Chuck Martino, chairman of the Airport Advisory Committee, said it would have been ideal to build the new terminal and renovate the runway at the same time.

“It’s shame we couldn’t have done it all when we were doing the new terminal,” Martino said. “Construction bids were a lot lower.”

Pat Apone, director of the county’s department of airports, said it would have been too tough to do both projects at the same time.

“This project is a major undertaking for the airport,” Apone said. “We have to close the runway at night, do the work, return the runway so we can have planes on it, have it inspected and have it ready for the first flight. So the window of construction is very small.”

The overnight runway closures will come during the area’s second busiest golf season, behind spring, said Bill Golden, president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. Golden said he has been in contact with airport officials about the rehabilitation project.

“What I don’t know is what, if any, flights are affected by that,” Golden said. “Given the time, I would imagine if there are any, there are not many flights affected by that in terms of arriving in the evening.”

Kirk Lovell, assistant director of airports for the county, said time buffers have been built around the construction schedule to allow for minor delays, but it would be up to the individual airlines to determine if and when flights may have to land elsewhere if a plane wants to land during the time the runway is closed.

“This project needs to get done,” Lovell said. “We’ve identified a time where it would be least disruptive to all the airlines and all the customers.”