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Rosecrans airport gets needed improvements

ST JOSEPH, Mo. (4/3/11) -- A cooperative agreement between the City of St. Joseph and the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing is bringing millions in additional Guard funding for taxiway repairs this summer at Rosecrans Memorial Airport.

Taxiways Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, which run along the East side of the airport's main, north-south runway, will be completely reconstructed at the city-owned airfield. The project is scheduled to begin mid-April with completion in the fall. The Guard is funding nearly $4.5 million of the project's $6.9 million total cost to ensure the taxiways remain operable.

"We really appreciate working with the FAA and the Missouri Department of Transportation in working out the funding and the city contribution for this, to make improvements for the Wing as well as for the community," said Lt. Col. Grace Link, base civil engineer.

The original airfield was developed in 1939 and its runways and taxiways lengthened and repaired in many projects since. The Air Guard has been a tenant since its conception, earlier still with the Army Air Corps, during World War II. Officials said the current taxiway no longer meets Air Force C-130 operating standards, which require good conditions to support military cargo aircraft.

"The concrete has been deteriorating for years and is in dire need of replacement," said Link.

In some sections, the layers of old concrete and asphalt and subgrade are nearly three feet thick, amounting to tons of rubble removal. Officials said it will be sampled for contaminants before its proper disposal.

"Our role is to ensure it meets our military specifications," said Link. That includes the design of the pavements as well as in construction oversight.

Link said construction is about underway after nearly a year-and-a-half of planning with many agencies, to include the Missouri Department of Transportation, the City of St. Joseph, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Guard Bureau. The two-phase project will split construction, first at the south, and then at the north sides of the airfield, which allows military and general aviation operations to continue. Taxiways closed will be reopened once all concrete is cured.

"We are going to get it done as soon as possible," she said, adding that the two-phase approach cuts more than a month-and-a-half from construction time. "Until then, it will be a shorter runway, and different taxiways will be used."

"Despite the on-going construction, both military and general aviation operations will continue with minimal impact."