Sonoma County Airport expansion project gets off ground

SANTA ROSA -- Construction is officially underway in the runway expansion of the Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport, a project that will bring the airport's runways up to current federal standards and potentially attract new commercial airlines and add destinations.

[caption id="attachment_79471" align="alignleft" width="400"] Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire, airport manager Jon Stout, Rep. Mike Thompson, upervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt wielded shovels at the groundbreaking. (image credit: Eric Gneckow)[/caption]

Leaders in the $53.8 million project celebrated its start with a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 28. The event attracted local government and tourism figures along with state and congressional representatives who have spent more than 12 years bringing the project to fruition.

"To say that today is a significant milestone is an understatement," said county Supervisor Mike McGuire, whose fourth district includes the airport area. The journey included 44 public meetings and project environmental-review documentation that would stack about 4 feet tall, he said.

With four distinct phases, the project is expected create 150 construction jobs and to be completed in late 2014 -- just shy of the 2015 deadline mandated by Congress.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in June approved a $22.7 million contract with Berkeley-based O.C. Jones & Sons for the first two phases of the project. Planned for completion during the 2013 construction season, the work will involve new lighting and other electrical systems and construction of a new taxiway.[poll id="85"] [poll id="87"]

The airport's two runways will be extended in the final two phases and will also be separated from the current configuration that intersects in a "V." The main runway will be extended by 885 feet to a new length of 6,000 feet. The second will be extended 200 feet, to 5,200 feet.

Three local companies were among the 13 subcontractors selected for the first two phases of the project: Cotati’s Neary Landscape, Healdsburg’s Terracon Pipeline and Santa Rosa’s Devincenzi Concrete Construction.

Work had originally been slated for completion this November. Yet the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service required additional environmental mitigation for nearby habitat that could theoretically host an endangered flower seen elsewhere on the property. That mitigation added approximately $10 million to the overall project cost and delayed construction by around one year.

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