Aaron West, The Triplicate

The Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Board is moving forward with its Runway Safety Area Project.

At its meeting on Thursday the board directed staff to go out to bid for phases 1 and 2 of the project, even though only Phase 1, which encompasses the work that won't impact natural resources, is set to begin immediately, pending expected Coastal Commission approval in early August.

"It's a pretty good milestone that we got to the point that we got," Commissioner Gerry Hemmingsen said. "This is a hurdle that we've been trying to get past for a long time. It's taken longer than what we'd like to see it take, but it's moving forward; we're going in the right direction."

The Runway Safety Area Project - federally mandated improvements that will bring the runway safety area up to federal standards - has seen delays for more than a year. Last year the Airport Authority missed the 2013 grant cycle when environmental analysis work wasn't completed in time.

Additionally, a lawsuit filed by property owners in the Pacific Shores subdivision, which the airport plans to use to create wetlands in order to mitigate wetland destruction, further delayed progress.

That lawsuit, filed last July, was dismissed in March when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that property owners can't sue the FAA for approving public funds for proposed airport improvements.

"If you would have told me a year ago we'd be moving forward, I wouldn't have believed it," Hemmingsen said. "There's a light at the end of the tunnel."

Phase 2 work, which will also require Coastal Commission approval and involves work impacting wetland areas, is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015, per FAA requirements. The Coastal Commission will be making decisions about Phase 2 over the course of the next three months.

According to staff documents, bid advertising will take place at the beginning of August and will then move into an evaluation phase on Aug. 28. The board will submit its contract recommendations to the FAA on Sept. 5, and construction is set to begin by the end of September.

Finigan said the board has to move quickly to achieve certain grant deadlines by the end of August.

Phase 1 has been broken down into three parts - all of it non-impact work - that can be completed concurrently with other phases, depending on Coastal Commission approval. The first part will include construction of a haul road, as well as an airfield electrical vault building and installation of temporary and permanent erosion and sedimentation controls, according to documents.

The second part - Phase 1B - will see the removal of certain pavement markings and signs, the installation of new signs, fixtures and sedimentation controls, and also the regrading of certain parts of the runway that don't include wetland areas. This process will be completed within 30 days.

Finally, there's Phase 1C, which can be completed concurrently with Phase 1A but not until 1B has been completed. It will also last 30 days. This part of the process will include more removal and replacement of pavement markings and signs as well as relocation of the wind cone.

The whole process is expected to last 180 days, and even though runway closures are expected at certain times, "downtime will be minimized," Hemmingsen said.

"They will always leave one runway open, but there will be times when they'll have to close both when they're working on an intersection," he said, noting that in those instances, closures would be scheduled to create as little interruption as possible.

When a more concrete schedule is confirmed by a contractor, travelers will be notified about closures and disruptions, it was announced at the meeting.

Reach Aaron West at awest@triplicate.com.