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Taxi lane project will improve drainage at Willmar Municipal Airport

Briana Sanchez / Tribune A taxi lane re-construction plan near private hangers at the Willmar Municipal Airport has been approved. The project is scheduled to be completed in late summer.

WILLMAR — Owners of private hangars at the Willmar Municipal Airport should see improved surface drainage following the completion of a east taxi lane project this fall. The Willmar City Council approved the plans and specifications for the project at a May 15 meeting, as well as ordering the advertisement for bids.

"Everything looks very thorough," Councilor Andrew Plowman said.

Since it was opened over 10 years ago, the airport has had drainage issues near the hangars. The original design of the airport did not take those hangars into account regarding the taxi lane drainage and the buildings block the flow of water, causing it to pool on the taxi lane and the hangar aprons.

"Rain falls and water stays in spots around those private hangars. The surface water does not run away as you would like to see it do," Eric Rudningen, airport fixed base operator said.

The project will include reconstructing the taxi lanes with inverted crowns, which will move the surface water into new valley gutters built in the the taxi lanes. The water will then flow to the south, into an existing drainage swale, Rudningen said.

"It is a reshaping of the taxi ways," Rudningen said.

There have been concerns raised by hangar owners regarding subsurface drainage and whether additional drain tile is necessary.

"As things need to be added, I would hope the engineers would take that in consideration as well. There are tile lines in that area right now," Rudningen said, adding those lines will need to be checked, to be sure they are working as they should.

The total project cost is $456,000, according to Silas Parmer of Bolton and Menk, who presented information on the project during the March Airport Commission meeting, but the city is responsible for only 5 percent. The state will be paying another 5 percent, with the Federal Aviation Administration covering the remaining 90 percent. Because of this, construction probably will not begin until late this summer.

The project is scheduled to take about 40 work days, or eight weeks to complete. This will cause some issues at the airport, especially for those with hangars and planes around the construction site.

Sean Christensen, WIllmar Public Works director, said discussion can be had with the contractor during pre-construction meetings about when certain aspects of the project will be done.

"Not displace everyone at once, because for obvious reasons that is not going to work," Christensen said.

While the taxi lane project should solve some of the standing water issues around the hangars, Rudningen said it is hard to engineer projects like this at the airport. The land is relatively flat and even with drain tile, getting water off the airport surfaces is a challenge.

"The airport is designed to hold its own water. We are not shedding water into the watershed," Rudningen said.

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