PUW Runway Realignment Project
Four Phases, Five Years And Lots Of Dirt
Work began on the Pullman Regional Airport (PUW) Runway Realignment Project (RRP) July 12, 2016. This $119 million, four-phase, five-year project is required to accommodate the increasing numbers of landings by larger planes (DeHavilland Dash-8, Bombardier Q400, Airbus A-319, Boeing 737, as well as Citation X, Lear, and Gulfstream corporate jets) classified as Airport Reference Code (ARC) C-III aircraft. The PUW does not currently meet those FAA requirements. In the planning stages for more than 10 years, the first phase requires moving 2.4 million cubic yards of dirt and is expected to be finished later this year. The completed project will include extending the existing runway to 7100 feet, widening it to 150 feet, pivoting its location slightly southwest, adding a taxiway, aircraft parking areas and expanding the passenger terminal.
A Regional Community Project
The groundbreaking ceremony at the airport attended by representatives from Washington State University, the University of Idaho, the Port of Whitman County, and officials from Latah County, the cities of Moscow and Pullman, as members of the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport Board used shovels to turn the first bits of sod marking the official launch of phase I of the project.
Once It Was Rail Service – Now It is Air Service
Businesses and academic institutions in areas like the Palouse are dependent on sufficient aviation facilities to attract employees, students, tourists, and investors. “In the 1880s, 1890s, if you had rail service your community grew. If you did not have rail service, your community might just disappear,” said Airport Manager Tony Bean. “In these days it’s air service. It’s a necessity for economic vitality.” Bean continued, “One of the neatest things about the Palouse is, it doesn’t matter if it’s garbanzo beans or wheat or it’s technological widgets or it’s research. It’s all global. You produce an amazing amount of global impact out of two small communities in the middle of an agrarian area. The airport makes a lot of that very, very possible”.
Rural Airports – An Economic Growth Multiplier
The project expects to initially add 93 jobs in construction and security guards, and 226 jobs at its peak. A study by Steven Peterson, an economist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Idaho, projected a total multiplier effect of 300 jobs in the four-county Quad Cities region, adding $17.4 million in gross revenues and $2.72 million in taxes. Peterson estimated by 2028 PUW would see almost 100,000 landings per year, provide 744 jobs and pay $43.1 million in local, state and other taxes.
The Economic Domino Effect Of An Expanded PUW
Once completed, the economic impact on the region will be staggering. The Palouse is currently transportation-constrained. The highway system is underdeveloped and rail service is under-utilized. Air travel promotes tourism, increases market access to decision makers, investors, and startups provide fuller access to emergency healthcare services and promotes arts, entertainment, and recreation. The region’s two land grant universities (WSU and UI) and state college (LCSC) directly employ almost 14,000 people and attracts over $400 million in direct research dollars annually. The overall multiplier effect of our higher-education sector alone adds almost 26,000 local jobs and contributes $1.6 billion to the regional gross domestic product (RGDP). The high-tech sector creates over 4000 additional jobs in the Quad Cities and $374 million to RGDP. Better air service creates better conditions for this sector’s growth. Finally, this project impacts four counties (Whitman, Latah, Nez Perce and Asotin) and has the potential to expand specific industry clusters throughout the region.
Size, Scope And Large Scale Problem Solving
This project’s size, scope, and sheer array of complicating factors make it one of the largest undertakings in Pullman in recent years. The FAA requirements must be overlaid upon the geography, environmental considerations and future needs of our region. A 2014 study by Mead & Hunt Engineering and Architecture outlined the challenges of the construction phase that simultaneously keep the existing airport facility fully functional.
Moving millions of cubic yards of earth and reusing it in different locations will require temporary holding areas and permanent disposal sites for the excess. A major electrical transmission line owned by Avista running across hills south of the airport and under an existing runway approach will have to be relocated. The new transmission line must be fully functioning before removal of any existing transmission lines begins. Drainage and wetland mitigation will involve interfacing with various regulatory agencies. Airport Creek currently runs parallel to Airport Road on the north side of the airport and crosses the existing runway west of the terminal, under Airport Road and eventually flows into Paradise Creek. Airport Creek drains over 3,100 acres. It will need to be protected during construction and relocated before the west end earth moving can begin. The floodplain of the airport is unmapped by FEMA. A comprehensive modeling will be required to avoid flooding of the terminal and aircraft storage areas, necessitating extensive cooperation between FEMA, local governmental bodies and airport officials. Once the new runway is completed, work on a parallel taxiway can begin as demolition of asphalt and utilities along the existing runway takes place. During this phase, many existing hangers on the east end of the project will be without direct access to their facilities. The aircraft in these hangers will temporally be moved to the public apron until construction is completed.