Morgantown Airport director defends runway project; Benedum Airport Authority says it’s a waste of money

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Two nearby airports in West Virginia are at odds over a $31 million runway extension project.

The Benedum Airport Authority, which serves as the board of directors for the North Central West Virginia Airport, voted Wednesday to write a letter to state officials opposing Morgantown Municipal Airport’s runway expansion project.

“I don’t think it’s doing good for either airport, you’re going to spend 30 million dollars to expand a runway,” Ron Watson, airport authority president said. “We’ve been opposed to the expansion up there of taxpayers’ dollars when you have an 8,000-foot runway here.”

Morgantown Municipal Airport is planning to extend its runway to 6,200 feet to accommodate larger jets. With regional airports like Morgantown and NCWVA experiencing decreased numbers, Watson said the best chance for success is for cooperation, and they previously reached out to accomplish that.

“It sort of landed on deaf ears. They didn’t want to do anything,” he said. “We wanted to say ‘Let’s do this, where you have all the private jets, corporate and then we do the commercial.”

Kelly recalled the meeting as well and said extending the runway allows the Morgantown Airport to continue developing its commercial program. Kelly noted the airport has already lost business from corporations that have holdings overseas. The current 5,199-foot runway cannot service the larger jets that many corporations are now operating.

“One of the folks who even looked at a hanger has holdings in Brazil and Australia and the 5,199 we’ve got just isn’t enough,” said Kelley.

Morgantown will be the beneficiary of an Innovative Readiness Training project by the U.S. Air Force Reserve. The same teams responsible for runway and airfield landing zone development for U.S. troops in war zones, will train by scoping out the runway project in Morgantown. By doing so, Kelly says it save the city at least $8 million and as much as $12 million in the overall cost of the $31 million project.

“What we’re doing is exactly what Senator Byrd and General Tackett did for Clarksburg in the ’90’s to extend their runway,” pointed out Kelly.

Work on the 1,001 foot extension is slated to begin in June.

“It’s sad that people are being short-sighted for what this will do for the state,” insisted Kelly.