Next year marks a turning point for the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority as it begins construction of several long-delayed improvement projects.
The organization, which owns and operates three airports in Lehigh and Northampton counties, announced its approval of a $57 million five-year capital plan. Many upgrades were delayed so the authority could pay millions in debt stemming from a 1990s lawsuit. Now, with the last payment made, the master plan is underway.
The projects are divided by airport and funding sources, said Charles Everett, executive director of LNAA.
Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, will see some of the biggest improvements, such as the construction of a multimodal transportation center. The project would link transportation modes, including buses, to create convenience for passengers.
The authority is creating a master plan and study which is the first comprehensive look at the airport’s facilities since 2004, Everett said.
Construction on many of the projects is expected to start next year.
Another major project at LVIA is the pavement rehabilitation of Runway 6-24, to cost $15 million to $20 million and take several years to complete, he said. LNAA will begin the design for that project next year.
Also at LVIA, the organization wants to build a bulk hangar facility to house corporate jets and small aircraft, at a cost of about $10 million.
“We have a waiting list for corporate jets; there’s folks waiting to get in here,” Everett said.
LNAA also plans to build an air cargo warehouse at LVIA and must first complete a study to determine how big it will be and what it will cost.
“We have a whole host of projects we need to do,” Everett said.
Some of these projects at LVIA are smaller, including buying a new fire truck, and repairing an elevator, escalator and roof.
But pavement rehabilitation is the major focus, he added. While runway 624 is being rehabilitated, LNAA will use its secondary runway.
“That’s one of the challenges people don’t think about. You have to keep the terminal and runway open when you do these projects,” Everett said. “It’s been a long time since we made these types of improvements.”
At Queen City Airport in Allentown, LNAA wants to build new hangars as part of its capital plan but needs to first perform a stormwater management plan, he added.
At Braden Airpark in Forks Township, plans call for demolishing the terminal as well as hangars and building a new terminal and hangars, a project that could begin next year, he said.
“We are financially stable at this point and we are in a position now to be looking at investments,” Everett said.
The go-ahead for the improvements also comes after a plan to build a $335 million FedEx Ground mega-hub near the airport was finalized earlier this year. The authority sold 260 acres for $9.8 million to a developer to build the project, the construction of which is now underway.
State and federal grants are helping fund some projects.
According to airport officials, a state Department of Transportation grant is funding the multi-modal transportation center, while state and Federal Aviation Administration grants are funding such projects as the master plan update and obstruction study and the design phase for the Runway 6-24 rehabilitation.
At Queen City, state and FAA grants are funding an obstruction study and stormwater management study.