Monterey Peninsula Airport – runway extension

MRYMonterey airport settlement clears way for runway project Monterey: Service road will no longer connect to highway – The Monterey Peninsula Airport District agreed to a settlement with its environmental rivals Wednesday night, fast-tracking the construction of a $46 million runway extension project after two years of legal battles.

The settlement with the Highway 68 Coalition eliminates the fought-over construction of a road that would have connected to Monterey-Salinas Highway.

“Even though it has been a long and frustrating endeavor,” district chair Matt Nelson said, “. . . we’re very pleased to be able to move forward with this critical safety project.”

The coalition agreed to stop legal challenges against the project, and the district agreed to pay all of the coalition’s attorney and consultant fees.

Efforts to reach coalition chairman Michael Weaver and his attorney, Alexander Henson, were unsuccessful late Wednesday.

The agreement will allow for the construction of a 7,000-foot runway and a service road for emergency vehicles – previously slated to connect to the highway – around the east side of the runway.

The changes required the airport to give up 8 feet of runway space, but Nelson said it would not be an issue for pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration will decide on the new plan Friday. Nelson said he did not foresee any problems with its approval.

The district said it hoped it could get the project done by December 2015. Construction could start by February next year.

The airport is required by federal regulations to increase the size of the runway to prevent aircraft from overshooting it.

The Highway 68 Coalition filed its lawsuit in June 2011, arguing against an 80-foot retaining wall along the highway and a two-lane service road connecting to the highway.

The most recent roadblock for the project came last month when Monterey County Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal said the district failed to consider alternatives to the service road.

In its lawsuit, the coalition argued the road would facilitate the construction of an airport business park, a charge the district denied.

As for the retaining wall, Weaver has said it would “create huge scars on our scenic Highway 68.”

The project modifications will result “in a smaller volume of cut-and-fill activities,” although exact details of how much dirt it would involve were not available at press time. Coalition attorney Henson has said the wall would have created a “mountain” of dirt.

The district’s project engineer will meet with a member of the coalition to discuss tree types and locations and the “visual landscape barrier” along the highway, according to the settlement.

Nelson said the agreement would “make a safe airport safer.”

Tom Greer, general manager of the airport, said officials will begin discussions with the coalition Thursday about h