By Megan Rule | Staff Writer
The Waco Regional Airport is creating a master plan to implement changes over the next 20 years.
“The impacts it has on the community is it gives the plan of anticipated growth and a good sense of what we anticipate to develop in terms of infrastructure,” said Joel Martinez, director of aviation at the Waco Regional Airport.
A public information workshop was held on Thursday where members of the Waco community were able to share opinions about what potential airport renovations they want, said Jacob Bell, client manager for Walker Partners. Among the discussion were talks of relocating the airport, generating income from expanding the parking area and lengthening the main runway, but nothing had been decided officially.
The master plan is essentially a 20-year road map that considers numerous alternatives and brainstorming, Bell said. Walker Partners is the engineering company that is working with the airport on this project. Bell has been with the company for three and a half years. Also working on this project is Coffman Associates, Martinez Geospatial and DKMG Consulting.
“Walker Partners provides a partnership for the airport,” Martinez said. “They are airport engineers and play a critical role is not only our future but our current construction. They’re an extension of our staff.”
Bell said the Federal Aviation Administration provides funding in order to keep airports up to standard. In the case of the Waco Regional Airport, the FAA supplies about 90 percent of the funds and the city of Waco supplies the other 10 percent for the master plan and related renovations.
“The FAA has all these standards and rules, and they say, ‘This is how you have to do it,’ but as is the case in most of life, there are situations that come up that don’t quite fit the mold,” Bell said. “Then you have to talk about having what they call a modification standard, so there will be a few situations where we’re going to have to work with the FAA to come up with something that will be agreeable to them and the airport.”
There will be multiple public information workshops during the master planning process, according to the Waco Airport Study website. These will be conducted open-house style where questions will be answered by the master plan team and are held in the early evening at the Waco Regional Airport Terminal Building. The next meeting will be in January.
“Expanding the terminal, adding additional parking, things like that, I think, make the traveler’s experience better,” Bell said. “Also, around Waco Regional Airport there’s a lot of available room for private companies to come in and have businesses. It’s probably about 10 minutes off of I-35, so on one hand it’s very convenient and would be good for the local economy if more businesses came in.”
The final chapters of the master plan will be crafted in early spring 2017. In addition, plans from the FAA about the steps to take moving forward should be received in the summer of 2017. Bell said everything will be done in five-year increments. The next five years are already planned, and then the project will move forward, focusing first on safety, then expanding the existing facility. Maintaining safe and efficient travel as well as upkeep of the facility is most important, Bell said.
“It’s a fun process to be a part of. I think all told, it’s going to be a year or year and a half process,” Bell said. “It’s just fun to be in the middle of it, to be at the meetings, to hear what the public is thinking, to meet with the FAA and get what they’re thinking, to work with the city to understand their needs. It’s fun to be a part of that and be part of something that I hope is going to craft the future in a positive way.”