The Portland International Jetport is planning to start taxiway improvement projects this spring that would improve the safety and logistics for airplanes and other vehicles to get around runways. Courtesy / Portland International Jetport

PORTLAND — Things may be getting a little noisier in the skies above South Portland’s Red Bank neighborhood this spring.

As part of a $6 million safety and logistics project, Portland International Jetport is closing its primary runway during the nights and early mornings from April 20 to June 13. The closures will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 10 p.m. on Fridays to noon on Saturdays.

Jetport Director Paul Bradbury said the main runway’s closure may mean more planes will fly over the Red Bank neighborhood in South Portland as they make their way to the secondary runway. It may also mean more airplanes over the Winding Way home of District 3 Councilor Tae Chong.

“I live next to the airport. I see planes fly over my house and I can hear planes fly over my house,” Chong said. “(The airport) has grown exponentially it seems, but it has also brought a lot of quality of life to Portland and southern Maine.”

Chong, who, in addition to representing the district that is home to the airport, is the new chairman of the airport’s noise advisory committee, said he has not heard many concerns from his constituents about the airport’s plans. He said he is looking forward to learning more about the projects as they move forward.

“I hope we can continue to work well with the airport because it is such an important part of our economic engine,” he said.

The project, which the City Council got its first look at Monday, includes adding a vehicle service road for fuel trucks, reconfiguring the end of the primary runway and creating a taxiway between runways for corporate jets and small propeller planes.

The federal Airport Improvement Program, funded through taxes on airline tickets and fuel, will provide $5.4 million toward the project. The remaining costs will come from state funding and the Jetport’s operating budget.

Bradbury said the project, which is set for final City Council review Jan. 22, will help planes and other vehicles get to where they need to go quicker and eliminate the need to cross over runways.

“One of our major considerations is to reduce runway crossover of any traffic, air traffic or otherwise,” he said.

The project is part of the airport’s 20-year Jetport’s Sustainable Airport Master Plan, which the council approved in November 2016.

Passengers won’t notice much of a difference once the runway changes have been made, “but for air traffic controllers, this makes it a much more efficient airfield and improves safety,” Bradbury said.

Airport officials want to wrap up the project before summer, the busiest time for the airport.

The council gave preliminary approval to allow Portland International Jetport to design a project that would relocate offices to free up space for traveler amenities. Courtesy / Portland International Jetport

Councilors Monday also gave preliminary approval for the airport to use $545,000 from its unrestricted fund balance of slightly more than $23 million to design expansion of surface parking and to relocate its administrative offices to vacant second floor space above the baggage claim area.

Bradbury said existing administrative offices will be turned into offices for the Transportation Security Administration. In turn, the current TSA offices will be renovated into amenities for travelers, such as additional restrooms, food or retail options or a frequent flyer lounge.

Bradbury said as the number of travelers using the jetport continues to rise, more amenities and parking are needed. In 2019, the airport handled more than 2.1 million passengers through non-stop flights to and from 23 cities, as well as one-stop connections to more than 2,000 cities worldwide. The 2019 passenger count represents an increase of 310,000 passengers, or 17%, over 2017.

The airport has approximately 2,664 parking spaces now, with a plan to add at least 200 more, either near existing parking or at the Pink Lot, a discount lot on District Road off outer Congress Street.

Bradbury said the office relocation project, once designed and reviewed by the City Council, is expected to take 24 months and be completed by 2022. The hope is to have the new parking open by March 2021.

 

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