Construction on the runway extension began in late August and is expected to be finished at beginning of December.

COLUMBIA - Columbia Regional Airport’s (COU) runway extension is couple months away from being complete. 

Michael Parks, COU manager, said there's no specific completion date, but COU expects the runway to be finished by the beginning of December. 

Construction on the runway extension began in late August.

With the extension, the length of the runway will go from 6,500 feet to 7,400 feet. The addition will provide a longer distance for planes to land and take-off and help during inclement weather, according to COU.

"So let's just say for an example, snow and ice on the runway, it gives a longer takeoff and longer landing distance," Parks said.

The extension will also give more room for larger aircrafts to use the runway in the future.

"We have both 50 and 70 passenger aircrafts, and with the extension, we could continue flying with those aircraft," Parks explained. "And of course, if an airline decided to increase their fleet size, or if a new airline decided to come into Columbia with a larger aircraft, it'd be an opportunity for them to land and take off."

Another part of the runway project is installing new LED lighting for the primary runway.

"So that will almost be a complete switch over for the entire airport, at the end of this project, there will only be 975 feet left of a taxiway to put LED lighting in, but that improvement is going to save about 75% of our energy cost, just on the primary runway alone," Parks said.

When asked if this will help with travel numbers, Parks said it depends on flight numbers.

COU had 18,576 passengers for the month of July, according to its passenger load data. While this is 166.3% increase from July 2020, it is still a -26.5% from July 2019, pre-pandemic.

With the new extended runway and a new terminal set to be finished in summer 2022, comes an expansion of the south parking lot which is currently in the planning stages. 

The parking lot will be located on the south portion of where the new terminal is going to be built, Parks said.

"That parking lot will include about 93 parking spaces, approximately, in addition to additional handicap parking spaces. So a great improvement to what was our gravel parking lot. And that will be a new lot for the new terminal," Parks said.

The total cost of the parking lot proposed project is estimated at $550,715, according to COU.

There was a public meeting at Columbia City Hall on Friday afternoon, regarding the parking lot expansion. Parks says as part of the public improvement process that COU goes through for key improvement, COU lets the public know what they plan on doing.

Parks explained city council and the city manager will decide if parking at the airport will still be free.

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