BOONE COUNTY, Mo. - The Columbia Regional Airport has completed the renovation of runway 13-31.
"It has been in planning since 2009," Columbia spokesman, Steve Sapp, said. "It is part of the overall master plan for the Columbia Regional Airport. We are getting so close to completing all the projects we promised in that 2009 master plan. Today really was a keystone because this was a big project and it happened in less than a year as far as construction goes."
City officials say the runway has been repositioned to the southeast to improve safety by allowing better line of sight for pilots on the south end of the main runway.
The runway has been widened from 75 to 100 feet and lengthened from 4,400 to 5,500 feet. The asphalt surface has also been replaced with concrete to allow for heavier aircraft.
"We have an extremely safe, modern, efficient infrastructure in our airport," Sapp said.
Before renovation, the runway was restricted to light, general aviation aircraft. The renovations will allow allow modern commercial jets to use the runway.
"We’ll be able to handle pretty much any aircraft they put to us with these new runway improvements," Sapp said.
The new runway is designated as a cross wind runway and will allow additional options for commercial aircraft to land when winds are not from the prevailing direction.
"The good news is, for every 10 cents we spend, we’re getting 90 cents from the federal government that would go elsewhere if it wasn't coming here," Sapp said.
"We’ve been in the planning stage for (the terminal) for a number of years," Sapp said. "We’re making great progress. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work with the FAA and others that have to take place but I want to assure everybody that progress is taking place and we hope to have some big announcements with that pretty soon."
In 2009, passenger numbers were at an all time for COU, with less than 10,000 passengers for the entire year. Sapp said city officials had to decide between closing the airport and investing in it. The city responded by creating the 2009 master plan and spending millions to improve the airport.
"Today we’ve seen over 70,000 passengers in the first ten months (of 2017) enplaned at Columbia Regional Airport," Sapp said. "We’re seeing more passengers in one month than we did in the entire year of 2009."
The reopening of runway 13-31 was accompanied by the announcement of American Airlines adding a third daily fight to Dallas.
"So what that means to the community is we’re supporting the airport, they’re seeing the market is there and they’re responding to that market by adding flights," Sapp said.
People can book the third flight now which will start in February.