Plans are lining up for a runaway widening project at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, but officials are still waiting on approval of federal funding for work to begin.
At Tuesday’s Westmoreland County Airport Authority meeting, the authority awarded a $11.9-million contract to Golden Triangle Construction for work related to the long-discussed project. If funding is approved, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for 95% of the project, with the authority covering the other 5%.
Gabe Monzo, the authority’s executive director, hopes to get an answer on funding sometime this month.
The two-phase project will widen the runway from 100 feet to 150 feet, which officials said will help pilots land during inclement weather events and enable the airport to avoid diverting flights to other facilities. Removing snow from behind the runway lights will be aided with new 20-foot shoulders.
Work is expected to stretch into 2020, officials said.
Monzo said the current construction schedule for the project is “tentative.” In June, authority engineer Scott Kunselman of GAI Consultants said runway work would shut down airport traffic for two 15-day phases that have yet to be finalized; one such schedule included possible closures in July 2020 and September 2020.
The project also calls for periodic nighttime closures, which Monzo said will allow the contractor to widen the northwest portion of the runaway — located farthest from the terminal building.
On Tuesday, Monzo reminded authority members that the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) popular PreCheck program will return to the Unity Township facility later this month.
Flyers will be able to enroll in the program from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 23-27, as TSA officials will hold temporary “pop-up” enrollment at the airport terminal, 148 Aviation Lane, Unity Township.
Travelers are asked to come to the terminal’s main ticket counter to enroll. As always, parking at the airport is free. The airport last held PreCheck enrollment sessions in November.
In 2018, Spirit Airlines was one of 11 airlines added to the list of airlines participating in the PreCheck program, which allows “trusted travelers” who enroll in advance and pay $85 for a five-year membership to, among other things, leave their shoes, belts and light jackets on at checkpoints.
PreCheck passengers are not required to remove their shoes, belts or light jackets and can leave laptops and TSA-compliant clear quart-sized bags containing liquids, aerosols, gels or creams in containers of 3.4 ounces or less inside their carry-on bags.
Travelers can submit an online application for enrollment in the PreCheck program at www.tsa.gov/precheck and schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center. The online application takes about five minutes, according to the TSA website. The in-person appointment includes a background check and fingerprinting.
Monzo said walk-ins are welcome for the PreCheck program but registration is encouraged.
According to the TSA website, more than seven million people have enrolled in the program since it launched in 2011. According to the latest TSA figures from July, 93% of PreCheck passengers waited fewer than five minutes to enroll.
In all, more than 200 airports and 73 airlines nationwide participate in the program, TSA officials said.
Travelers can take advantage of their PreCheck status when booking flights by adding their Known Traveler Number, or KTN, to their tickets during the booking process or after booking under the Manage Travel section of the Spirit website.
There is no age restriction to apply for the PreCheck program. However, family members ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible parent or guardian with a PreCheck indicator on their boarding pass can participate in expedited screening, according to TSA officials.
Spirit Airlines offers flights from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Fort Myers and Tampa in Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
For more on the PreCheck program, visit tsa.gov/precheck
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:
- Chairman Don Rossi said some authority members attended a recent meeting regarding the Laurel Valley Transportation Improvement Project. Local and state officials have long touted the project, involving the Route 981 corridor between Route 819 and the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, as a way to improve access for the 10-plus miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Route 30 in Unity Township not far from the airport;
- An executive session was held regarding property issues;
- According to figures provided by the airport, the facility served 27,173 passengers in August and 221,432 passengers for the year to date.