Transportation officials undecided on runway repair plan; to start EIS process

Nearly a year after public discussion about the urgent need for a major overhaul of Kahului Airport’s 71-year-old, 7,000-foot main runway, state Department of Transportation officials remain undecided about which repair option to choose and how long Maui’s air overseas lifeline would need to be closed, if at all.

“An option has not yet been chosen,” said DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter in an email Tuesday. “But the project is moving forward.”

She reported that the department is working on starting an environmental impact statement for the project.

“The EIS process typically takes 18 to 24 months,” she said. “During the EIS process, the public will have a chance to comment on the proposed project(s). The EIS will help to guide the project(s).

“Once the EIS is completed, the design phase will be entered and is expected to be finished in mid-2016. After that, the project would be put out to bid,” Sluyter said.

In January 2012, state officials reported that they had developed three options for runway repairs. Those were drafted after a 2009 notice from the Federal Aviation Administration that federal funds would no longer be available for ongoing piecemeal patching of the runway. Former Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration hired an engineering firm to study the issue and make an assessment.

A report of the firm’s findings was delivered to state transportation officials in the summer of 2011.

In mid-January 2012, the state Airports Division held a public informational meeting on three options. Those were:

  • A $34 million to $47 million option which would require closing the main runway for the longest period of time – eight to 10 weeks and would not allow wide-body landings at the airport.
  • A $66 million to $84 million option which would not permit wide-body aircraft landings for three weeks. It would require a 2,000-foot extension (mostly toward Wailuku-Kahului) of the airport’s secondary, 5,000-foot runway 5-23, which is used by small planes.
  • A $110 million to $134 million option, which would allow the airport to continue landings of wide-body aircraft without restrictions. It would require a 2,000-foot extension to runway 5-23 and a 1,600-foot extension toward Hana Highway for the primary runway 2-20.

In the second and third options, extending runway 5-23 would make it capable of handling Mainland flights and enable the closure of runway 2-20 for repairs.

State officials have said that closing Kahului Airport to Mainland flights for as much as three months is not an option.

For more on this story, read the Wednesday edition of The Maui News.