Wednesday's warm weather is paving the way for a longer runway at the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (CHO). Crews are finally laying down blacktop as part of the airport's $41 million improvement project.
Four years ago, crews started moving a massive amount of dirt to build up the runway site. Delays pushed back the start date on this paving phase from spring to now. Pavers are now smoothing out the first layer of asphalt for the 800-foot runway extension.
CHO has one of the shortest commercial airport runways in the country and it forces weight restrictions on planes. Regional jets cannot take off in the humid summer weather with all 50 seats filled, and that means money lost.
The airport hopes the runway extension makes flying from Charlottesville more lucrative for airlines and attracts new flights.
Bill Pahuta, CHO's interim executive director, said, "For future airlines, with a larger aircraft, it's always nice to have a longer runway. This certainly will give them that opportunity. So, yes, we're hoping new opportunities will open for us in the very near future."
Crews are continuing to blast rock and move dirt from other parts of the airport property to fill in land for the runway. By the time the expansion is done, they'll have moved two million cubic yards of dirt.
Neighbors can expect near daily blasting, around noontime, for the next 70 days. The runway should be ready for its first flights in late November or early December.
The entire improvement project will continue for another year. The airport needs to build a taxiway to the new runway and fill in land for safety zones around the site.