- Associated Press - Saturday, November 11, 2017

BLACKMAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Completion is in sight for an airport project in southern Michigan that’s been going on for 17 years.

A new runway at the Jackson County Airport opened for use in September, but a few finishing touches remain, airport manager Kent Maurer said.

The airport built the new runway because the old one didn’t have enough runoff space to accommodate updated Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported .

The new runway has 5,350 feet of landing space with 1,000 feet of runoff area. Without that length, numerous corporate aircraft would have to find a different airport to use. That would result in the airport and the community losing out on business.

Maurer said business leaders have expressed having a usable nearby airport is often a top priority for the area about 60 miles west of Detroit.

“It might be the thing that perhaps puts a business location over the top,” he said.

To build the new runway, the airport had to move an old landfill, buy houses to tear them down, take down trees and purchase easements over other properties.

“It’s kind of surreal. There are so many hundreds of steps necessary,” Maurer said. “It feels (like) a bit of a relief that there aren’t any more pitfalls out there that could get in the way of building this runway.”

The old runway was decommissioned in May, leaving only one runway as the sole option throughout the summer. That led to a decrease in traffic at the airport for 2017.

Regardless, Maurer said the project was a long-term investment.

“It’ll be safer forever because of this project,” he said. “And we didn’t have to risk losing our landing length for corporate aircraft.”

The airport manager said nearly $50 million was spent on the runway, with most of the money coming from federal grants.

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Information from: Jackson Citizen Patriot, http://www.mlive.com/jackson

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