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RUNWAY PROJECT GAINING MOMENTUM

July 10, 2001 — The second phase of the ongoing runway extension project at St. Croix's Henry E. Rohlsen Airport will begin Friday.
The initial phase of the four-phase project was completed earlier this year and included groundwork for the new section of runway, which will extend the strip from 7,600 feet to 10,000 feet.
The second phase consists of paving, marking, lighting, grooving and installing signs on the extended runway and taxiway, according to Gordon Finch, executive director of the V.I. Port Authority. V.I. Asphalt Products Corp. won the $6.6 million contract for work on the second phase, which is expected to be completed in nine months. Other phases include lighting and the relocation of navigational aids. The $18 million project, 90 percent funded by the federal government, began in 1999 and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2002, according to the Port Authority. But even with the completion set for next year, the runway will not be certified for use until the summer of 2003, when a new air traffic control tower is constructed.
When the tower is completed, Finch said the airport will be able to provide the larger, long-range aircraft operated by major airlines and charter operations to fly non-stop turnaround service to the V.I. from Europe, South America, Canada and the west coast of the U.S.
In addition to the runway, the Port Authority is in the midst of a $22 million-plus renovation of the airport terminal.
"The new terminal and runway will play a significant role in the development of St. Croix by allowing access to new air passenger markets," Finch said. "It will also create a potential airline hub, which, if realized, will position St. Croix as a viable location in the Caribbean for [cruise ship] home porting."
Meanwhile, the millions of dollars granted to the Port Authority for the runway extension could turn into loans if the nearby Anguilla Landfill isn't closed by Dec. 2002. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered that the dump be closed because birds that feed off of it pose a threat to aircraft. The dump also frequently catches on fire, sending dark smoke in the direction of the airport.
To accommodate the runway extension and meet safety requirements some 65 families in Yellow Cedar have been displaced. The Port Authority purchased homes and property at fair market value.

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