As part of the effort to grow an important economic engine for the county, plans are being made to expand the Cherokee County Airport runway, with bids for the project to be let out potentially later this year.

“We are still in the planning stages,” airport authority chair Don Stevens said. “It will probably be toward the end of the year when the bids get let out for this.”

Once the bids are let out and the construction begins, Stevens said the runway will be made 25 feet longer, going from 75 feet to 100 feet in width, while another layer of asphalt will be put down and a new LED light system will be installed.

Although Stevens expressed the belief last fall at the groundbreaking ceremony for the project that this widening could be bid out in February and begun in the spring, he recently explained these dates were a best guess at the time, as the various agencies involved, like the Department of Transportation, do not always work at the speed some might hope they would.

Once the runway widening is completed, Stevens said that the airport will look into lengthening the runway to 6,000 feet. Not only will making the runway longer make it safer to take off and land at the airport, but by giving jets based there more room to take off on, it will allow these planes to carry more fuel and thus make longer trips. Although there is no exact timetable on this, Stevens said this could happen at some point within the next five years.

This project to widen the runway is the latest in a series of upgrades to the Cherokee County Airport, which have been going on since 2005. During this time, the airport added a new terminal building, constructed hangars for aircraft based there and lengthened the runway to 5,000 feet.

“We want to make it an even more viable economic engine for the county,” Stevens said.

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