- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Contractors are planning to start reconstruction of a runway at the Columbia Regional Airport, reflecting the increasing popularity of the largest airport in central Missouri.

The airport will use an $11 million Federal Aviation Administration grant and transportation sales tax revenue to expand a secondary, crosswind runway from 4,400 feet to 5,500 feet. The project began Thursday and is expected to be done in late summer or early fall, the Columbia Missourian (https://bit.ly/2mif9Mm ) reported.

The runway extension, along with an announcement last week that United Airlines will begin offering flights from Columbia to Denver and Chicago, show the airport’s increased use. The number of passengers using the airport has set records in January and February this year.

Airport officials are already planning to extend the main runway to 7,400 feet, likely starting in 2020.

Airport acting manager Mike Parks said United Airlines is expected to begin its Chicago and Denver flights on Aug. 1, and airlines will need to collaborate in order to accommodate for the increase in passengers.

“Timing of the flights is everything,” he said. “There’s about two hours for all four flights to go out in the morning, so the airlines will be working together on those departures.”

Adelman Travel Group vacation manager Lisa Bright said the alternative option is attractive for those looking to travel, especially with the often full American Airlines flight to Chicago.

“It’s good, but I just worry about the infrastructure right now getting another airline in there and what they have to do to accommodate it,” Bright said.

Suzi Davis Travel office manager Jerry Price said business travelers will especially benefit from the new airline options.

“It’s always better for the customer when more airlines enter a market,” Price said, adding that it drives down ticket prices.

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Information from: Columbia Missourian, https://www.columbiamissourian.com

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