Juneau International Airport is asking the Federal Aviation Administration for $2-million dollars to install additional approach lighting at the east end of its main runway.
The city-owned airport already has $1-million dollars for the project, thanks to a 2010 earmark inserted into a transportation bill by Senator Lisa Murkowski. But Airport Manager Jeannie Johnson says that only pays for three lights, when ideally there should be at least eight.
Even with modern advances in aircraft navigation, Johnson says Alaska Airlines estimates it had more than 450 missed approaches in Juneau last year. The majority of those flights eventually landed, she says, but only after taking another pass.
“Alaska Airlines is excited to get even three on that end of the airport,” she says. “Because it helps them get into Juneau more often when they’ve got more lights down there to see when the weather’s really bad.”
Alaska’s Congressional delegation is backing the airport’s request. Senator Murkowski and Congressman Don Young have written letters of support to Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Johnson says she expects Senator Mark Begich to do the same by the end of the week.
Young and Murkowski’s letters play up the fact that Juneau is the state capital and has no road access. Both call the airport a “critical lifeline.”
The airport is asking for the project to be listed as a priority under the FAA’s “Needs Assessment Program,” and for the agency to appropriate unused funds from fiscal year 2012 projects to complete it. The federal government’s fiscal year ends September 30th.
Johnson’s not sure if the agency will have enough to meet the request, but says it doesn’t hurt to ask.
“I don’t know how much money is left over,” she says. “So, our request is for $2-million. If there’s a million dollars left over, I guess my thought is that our chances are pretty slim. But if there’s more than that, I would hope that we would get at least part of it.”
If the request is unsuccessful, Johnson says the scaled-down project will move forward early next year on the east end of the runway. The west end already has a full system of approach lights, she says.
The Congressional delegation’s support for the project was an information item at Wednesday’s Juneau Airport Board regular meeting.