Collin County Regional Thinks Big with Replacement Runway

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Runway 18-36 at Collin County Regional Airport (TKI) is more than a new takeoff and landing surface. It’s the centerpiece of $43.4 million in recent airfield improvements and a concrete example of local optimism and support for the North Texas general aviation airport.

While federal and state agencies offered grants to bring the facility up to current general aviation airport standards, TKI had bigger things in mind — specifically, commercial service. And with backing from the City of McKinney and local business leaders, the airport realized its vision. 


Replacement Runway & Related Airfield Improvements

Location: Collin County (TX) Regional Airport

Cost: $43 million

Funding: $29 million from FAA; $7 million from TxDOT; $4 million from City of McKinney; $3 million from McKinney Economic Development Corp.

July 2010 – July 2012

Engineer of Record:
KSA Engineers

Airfield Lighting:
Astronics DME

Airfield Signage:
Lumacurve Airfield Signs

Road Relocation:
Tiseo Paving Co.

Grading: Weir Brothers

Runway Paving:
Glenn Thurman

Taxiway Connector Paving:
Ed Bell Construction Co.

Electrical Contractor:
GSW Constructors

Fencing: K & S Contractors

Quality Testing: MTE Inc.

Electrical Transformers:

Gate Security:
Lenel Systems Int’l

Sod: Texas Environmental

Pavement Markings:
Eagle Airport Markings

Of Note: Largest aviation project in TxDOT history; work was completed a month early & under budget.

The McKinney Economic Development Corp. stepped up with a grant of up to $7 million to pay for improvements that exceeded federal design standards for a general aviation airport. As it turned out, though, costs for the extra work dropped by millions of dollars when the economy took a dive in 2008.

“All politics is local,” explains Airport Director Ken Wiegand. “And the political players in our community, backed by business development interests, thought that we would need wider and
stronger pavement if we were to attract commercial service at some point in the future.”

From a design standpoint, that meant constructing a 150-foot-wide runway with a 450,000-pound dual tandem wheel load capacity rather than the federal standard for TKI, a 100-foot-wide runway with 150,000-pound capacity.

Instead of spending additional money later to widen and strengthen the pavement to accommodate commercial aircraft, local sentiment supported exceeding federal requirements for general aviation service to enable the facility to attract commercial service in the future. “This is a small example of the outstanding support the airport receives from the forward-thinking and progressive community and business leaders we have in McKinney and Collin County,” relates Wiegand.

Beyond the Minimums

The project officially began in November 2004, when McKinney City Council approved the airport’s master plan update, which included a replacement runway and significant airfield improvements. In 2005, TKI officials secured the promise of federal funding for the project.

The FAA viewed the project as a safety issue, because the 1970s airport wasn’t designed for the kind of air traffic it was hosting. “McKinney has grown, and its aviation needs have become more sophisticated,” explains Mike Nicely, manager of the FAA’s Texas Airports Development Office.

The previous runway and taxiway, for instance, were too close together: only 300 feet apart instead of the federal minimum of 400 feet. “We felt it important to construct a new replacement runway and turn the existing runway into a taxiway to meet design standards for the kinds of aircraft using the airport,” Nicely continues.

In the end, the airport opted for 550 feet of separation between the two centerlines, so it could continue operating the existing runway while crews built the replacement runway. Overall, the project required the airport to acquire more than 160 acres of land and move nearly 1.25 million cubic yards of soil. Crews also placed nearly 53,000 tons of concrete over roughly 30.5 acres and installed 25 miles of electrical wire for 202 runway and taxiway lights.

As if that weren’t enough, workers also relocated about one mile of two-lane road at the south end of the new runway, creating a six-lane easement. “We realized that if we wanted to have the option of extending the runway to 8,500 feet some day in the future, we would have to move (the road) for safety reasons,” explains Wiegand. “The new roadway offers more direct access to the areas located south and east of the airport. It’s a very attractive drive, and we’ve made the road much safer.”

The $3.5 million roadway project was paid for with federal and state apportionment funds from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The road, FM 546, is part of a state system built to connect farms and ranches to distribution areas. FM stands for farm-to-market. 

High & Dry

Construction of TKI’s new runway took two years and claimed a spot in TxDOT history as the agency’s single largest aviation project. When Runway 18-36 opened for traffic in July 2012, the project ended one month ahead of schedule and under budget, notes Project Manager Steve Creamer, of KSA Engineers.

The instrument landing system was flight checked and approved in mid-September, and taxiway connectors at each end of the runway are complete. Airport officials expect work on three midfield connectors between the new runway and old runway, which now serves as a taxiway and backup runway, to be complete in November.

Positioning the new runway 550 feet east of the old runway minimized obstructions to air traffic during construction. “The distance allowed us to do all of our grading work and drainage improvements while staying outside the existing runway safety area,” Creamer explains.

The runway was also moved 300 feet to the south to keep it out of the Trinity River floodplain. That required the relocation of FM 546, which, in turn, required permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a conditional letter of map revision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The roadway had to be designed according to TxDOT highway standards for radii based on speed requirements,” explains Creamer, noting that multiple 90-degree turns were eliminated.

To manage stormwater drainage for the new runway, 1.13 miles of drainage culverts and pipe were installed and a 16-acre, 8-foot-deep detention basin was constructed.

“Our stormwater system not only had to meet EPA standards, but the city’s standards, which are even more stringent,” notes Wiegand. “A finger of the Trinity River comes up onto the airport property, so we had to design a detention basin to handle drainage and push the floodplain off of the developing airport property. While we still have a bit of the floodplain on the property, once we construct a deviation channel from an existing channel, the floodplain will be pushed back toward the river and we’ll be high and dry. Actually, we are high and dry now, unless we have a Category 6 hurricane that sits over us for a week or so.”

Other Improvements

During the construction of Runway 18-36, TKI replaced its 30-foot wooden air traffic control tower with an updated 100-foot facility. The new tower, which opened in February 2011, is an attractive, functional addition that was needed for the new runway, notes Wiegand.

In addition, a new 6-foot security fence topped with 12 inches of barbed wire and swing gates in the wet channels now encloses the airfield. Vehicle access is managed through six electronic sliding gates controlled by a Lenel security system and proximity card readers. A perimeter road was also constructed.

The comprehensive changes at TKI included nearly every component of an airfield project: runways, taxiways, navigational aids, generators, drainage, grading, electrical and fencing, notes Creamer. 

And all the changes, Wiegand adds, were made with an eye on the future. “Our board made the decision to maintain Collin County Regional as a general aviation airport with commercial service goals,” he explains.

“This means that future infrastructure will be constructed to support transport category aircraft wherever possible. We are committed to making the airport better, not necessarily bigger, in order to attract quality business clients to our facility.”


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