Tangier Island Airport Runway Improvements Approved

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The Accomack County, Virginia Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to approve funding that will literally pave the way for long-awaited runway and apron improvements at the Tangier Island Airport, located in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Over the years, pilots have developed a love-hate relationship with the lumpy, bumpy runway at Tangier Island, which is best known throughout the mid-Atlantic region for its land-that-time-forgot local atmosphere. Ron Wolff, chairman of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors, told AVweb that the $3.25 million project hinged on getting the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to commit to paving the roads that lead to the airport. Most of the money is coming from the FAA's Airport Improvement Program, but Wolff said VDOT's budget allocation for much-needed road repairs on Tangier Island would have expired tomorrow if the town had not found a way to fund its share of $65,000 toward the airport project. So Wolff convinced the board to put up a $40,000 interest-free loan to the town that, combined with local fundraising efforts, was enough to seal the deal. Local pilots are organizing a $50-a-head fly-in brunch to help pay off the loan, Wolff said.

"We only have 550 residents, and raising that kind of money is not the easiest thing to do," said Airport Manager Renee Tyler. Bids for the project are expected to go out in April, with construction completed later this year. Tyler said the runway will be shortened from its current 2,950 feet to 2,700 feet to provide a greater safety zone between the sea wall and the threshold on the south end. "Being out in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, it's very costly to get a portable mixer out to the island," Wolff said. "The idea was, once the runway could be resurfaced, VDOT could piggyback on that to do the runway at the same time."