Design work is underway on a planned runway expansion at the Middlebury State Airport. State transportation officials plan to meet with the community Wednesday night to give an update on the $3 million project.
Expansion of the runway has been under discussion for about two decades. Three years ago, an assessment found pavement conditions on the runway to be extremely poor, and the Federal Aviation Administration has said they prefer that any improvements include a 700-foot expansion of the runway.
In addition, trees on the approach to the airport will be cleared.
State Aviation Program Administrator Guy Rouelle says despite the longer runway, the airport classification won't change.
"We do expect to see the same type of traffic. In other words, the airport will be designed for the same type of aircraft that are currently using the field. But we would anticipate an increase in traffic with the airport and these improvements," Rouelle said.
The airport is near the village of East Middlebury, and some neighbors like Judy Wiger-Grohs are worried that increased traffic could mean more noise in what is otherwise a quiet part of town.
"Generally people accept the airport as it presently exists and feel that the level of noise is already significant at certain times," she said.
Wiger-Grohs says airport neighbors are also concerned about loss of bat habitat and the potential for water contamination, as the airport sits on an aquifer. And the airport is near a lot of homes.
"There are 600 residences within two miles of the airport," she said. "And it's also been designated a historic village, less than a mile from the airport."
Aviation administrator Guy Rouelle says the number of houses within the approach to the airport is similar to the Morrisville-Stowe airport, where a reconstruction has occurred. And he says design work will consider bat habitat and the aquifer.
Others point to concerns about jets coming to the airport. Rouelle says under FAA rules they can't discriminate against aircraft that fit the airport's classification, and small jets are currently allowed.
While the majority of the airport's use is personal aircraft, Rouelle says there is commercial activity at the airport.
"There are approximately nine operators, which are commercial airport operators that fly people to and from the airport," he said. "In addition to the private and commercial activity there is also military operations that do come in and out of that airfield."
Some business groups, including the local Chamber of Commerce, support the project, and airport expansion is included in the town plan.
State officials hope to get a grant from the FAA which would fund 90 percent of the costs.
The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Middlebury State Airport.