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Asheville airport breaks ground on $65 million runway

Lew Bleiweis, executive director of Asheville Regional Airport Lew Bleiweis, executive director of Asheville Regional Airport

Asheville Regional Airport officials on Friday broke ground on a $65 million four-year construction project to build a new runway and prepare 40 acres of land suitable for aeronautical development.


Called Project SOAR, for Significant Opportunity for Aviation and the Region, the work is the biggest improvement since the airport was originally built. Construction will be done in four phases with  completion projected in 2018.

"This is a milestone event," said Lew Bleiweis, Asheville Regional Airport's Executive Director. "This day is one that will be remembered 50 years from now as a major step that helped position western North Carolina for additional growth in aviation."

The airport's runway is being replaced for three reasons, airport officials said.

First, the existing runway (which is 50+ years old) is nearing the end of its useful life and will require major reconstruction to continue its use into the future. Second, the existing runway and taxiway at AVL are slightly closer together than the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) now requires - standards put in place long after the AVL runway was constructed. The third reason for the project relates to the airport's 20+ year master plan. Upon completion of the new airfield, AVL will have land suitable for new aeronautical development, accessible to the runway on the new west-side taxiway.

Because the runway is nearing the end of its useful life within five years, the FAA has agreed that it is now time to pursue the project. The new runway is expected to be adequate to serve air service for western North Carolina into the future for the next 50+ years.

"The Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority Board works diligently to make solid decisions now that will carry the airport forward to meet our region's growing air service needs, and equally important, our region's potential," said Bob Roberts, Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority Board Chair. "It is exciting to think about the opportunities for future business development that will be made possible by this significant project."

The celebration also came at an appropriate time, as Asheville Regional Airport saw a solid year of passenger growth, up 14 percent compared to the previous year. The growth substantiates projections used to develop the airport's 20 year master plan, in which Project SOAR is a major part.