Residents of Winnebago County have been hearing about the proposed Taxiway B reconstruction project for many months, and have probably been wondering if and when the project is ever going to happen.

 

The wait is over; the final piece of the puzzle is in place.

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors approved the storm water sewer easement and intergovernmental agreement between Winnebago County and the City of Oshkosh. The Oshkosh City Council previously approved both documents at its October 13th meeting.

But what does a storm water sewer have with the taxiway reconstruction project? The answer is actually simple and logical.

Several years ago, the City of Oshkosh collaborated with Wittman Regional Airport and Winnebago County on the Glatz Creek Watershed Stormwater Study to identify solutions to stormwater flooding problems throughout the airport and surrounding neighborhoods. Special attention was paid to the area on 20th Avenue on the northern edge of the airport, as there are reports of Oshkosh residents having to dodge floating manhole covers…if they were able to even drive down 20th street…during a heavy rainfall.

Ultimately, the solution is to install a 66-inch storm sewer pipe from the intersection of Knapp Street and 20th Avenue, and divert a significant amount of water through a new pipe under the airport that will connect with the existing pipe on 23rd Avenue east of the airport boundary. The alternative was to install the pipe directly underneath 20th Avenue, which would have severely reduced the amount of traffic on 20th Avenue while the street was dug up, but it also meant extensive work to place the sewer under existing utilities (gas, water, electric, fiber optic, and telephone lines) that run perpendicular to the street while working to achieve the needed depth and pitch to ensure proper flow of storm water to Lake Winnebago.

How does this stormwater work affect a taxiway reconstruction project?

In the 2012 Wisconsin Pavement Management report, Taxiway B is highlighted as needing reconstruction due to the deteriorating bituminous surface. The taxiway was constructed in 1962 (originally using 2 inches of asphaltic material), and has been overlaid with asphalt twice with a total of 5 inches of material. Taxiway B was also coated with a sealer once to increase the life of the pavement. That life is officially over.

A new concrete taxiway will be constructed, the distance of the Runway 9/27 centerline to the Taxiway B centerline will be 460 feet (400 feet is the minimum requirement for FAA requirements) and be a true parallel taxiway all the way to the approach end of Runway 9. There will be some changes to taxiway connectors, including locations and designators. The reasoning for the 460-foot separation is that it will allow for aircraft taxiing outside of the runway safety area in the grass alongside the north side of Runway 9/27 during EAA AirVenture, further increasing the safety of operations during that time period. Another benefit of that increased distance is that it allows for the storm water sewer to be placed where Taxiway B currently exists.

Therein lies the reasoning for proceeding with both projects simultaneously—in a sense Winnebago County, and the City of Oshkosh, are “killing two birds with one stone.” Vinton Construction, which was awarded the contract work, is experienced in both project components, which in the long run will allow both government entities to achieve economic savings.

Further benefits for the entire project include:

  • An improved parallel taxiway surface
  • Increased aircraft safety during EAA AirVenture
  • Reduced flooding potential on and off the airport (a big benefit to the airport’s northerly neighbors)
  • Economic benefits to both Wittman Regional Airport and the City of Oshkosh
  • LED taxiway lighting on Taxiway B, which will reduce the airport’s electrical usage and decrease the need to frequently change the old incandescent bulbs in the current lighting
  • Improved drainage throughout the northwest portion of the airport

In all this, there is some temporary “bad” news. There will be detours from normal taxi routes for pilots on the north side of the airport during this project. In order to get as much earthwork done this fall prior to the winter construction shutdown, trucks will be hauling material on Taxiway B for several weeks; flagmen to control these vehicles will be stationed at strategic intersections to prevent construction equipment from interfering with aircraft operations. Aircraft will always have the right of way, but as always, the pilot-in-command must maintain situational awareness and follow all taxi instructions. Special information will also be broadcast on the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS).

Certain taxiway routes and intersections will be closed at various times to facilitate the project. However, at no time will access across the airport be completely closed; airport staff have developed taxiing scenarios with Midwest Air Traffic Control Services personnel in the Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) to ensure all areas of the airport are accessible to aircraft and vehicles.

Runway 5/23 will be closed to air traffic throughout the winter months while the storm sewer pipe is routed through the east side of the airport, but portions will remain open for taxi purposes.

Taxiway E on the north side of Runway 9/27 will be closed for several weeks early in the project this fall to place the sewer pipe beneath that segment. That taxiway will be useable throughout the winter months.

During the planning stage of this project, it was anticipated that FAA funding would be approved which would allow the start of the project at the completion of EAA AirVenture 2015. Because of that delay in funding approval and issuance, the project will be done in the following phases:

  • Phase I of this project—the installation of the storm water sewer pipe east of Taxiway B, and base course work on the relocated Taxiway B west of Taxiway B2—will commence October 26, 2015 and be completed by approximately November 13, 2015.  Work will resume in April 2016 and will  involve paving the west portion of the new taxiway, tying it into the existing taxiway, as well as storm water sewer construction to a point just west of the Taxiway B and Taxiway A intersection. This work is anticipated to be completed by June 6, 2016.
  • Phase II – yet to be bid – will entail the completion of all storm water sewer work and the completion of the center portion of the new, relocated Taxiway B. That work is anticipated to commence at the end of EAA AirVenture 2016.

With all Wittman Regional Airport projects, we want to ensure that all airport users and local residents are up to date on information, and we will provide those here, on the Wittman Regional Airport website, through Facebook and other social media and via direct correspondence to airport tenants. We always encourage your questions and inquiries to maintain a safe operating environment during these challenging times. We will certainly have to go through some problematic periods, but in the end the results will be enjoyable for all.