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Runway work delayed at Duluth airport

The main runway at Duluth International Airport may shut down for up to two months in summer 2018 as part of the runway's reconstruction. That comes as some work on the major project is being delayed, Duluth Airport Authority board members discus...

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The Duluth International Airport. (file / News Tribune)

The main runway at Duluth International Airport may shut down for up to two months in summer 2018 as part of the runway's reconstruction.

That comes as some work on the major project is being delayed, Duluth Airport Authority board members discussed at their meeting Tuesday morning. But it won't be pushed back any more than that for fear of funding expiring.

"We can't kick the can down the road any further," said board president Patrick Mullen.

Working around the needs of AAR Corp., which services Air Canada Airbus jets at the airport, has proven tricky for the $47 million reconstruction project. AAR and the airport previously worked to spread out construction over several years and sections to prevent closures as much as possible.

"We worked very hard with our customer, with the airport and the airport board to come up with a plan for this year," Mark Ketterer, AAR's vice president of operations in Duluth, told the News Tribune. "As far as next year, closing the center section - we understand we have to get it done by September 2018. We'll continue working with the airport."

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The airport remains in discussions with how the project is proceeding. Per board discussions, the runway could shut down for 60 days starting in June 2018.

About 2,000 feet of runway will be completed this year, Duluth Airport Authority Executive Director Tom Werner wrote in an email to the News Tribune following last week's board meeting.

"The remaining construction will be complete by the end of the 2018 construction season," Werner wrote. "Up until that point we are looking at all construction options that will minimize the impact of construction on our airport stakeholders."

Ketterer said: "We're optimistic we'll make things work."

Construction started on replacing the aging 10,200-foot runway last summer, and last fall the project got a $6 million boost from the federal Department of Transportation. The Federal Aviation Administration previously pledged to pay for 90 percent of the project.

Related Topics: AVIATION
Brooks Johnson was an enterprise/investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune from 2016 to 2019.
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