Federal grant will 'pave' way for much needed Belen airport repairs

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The Belen Alexander Municipal Airport received a $200,000 federal grant to fill asphalt cracks that are up to two inches wide and spanning feet upon feet on the taxiway and runway.

The Belen Alexander Municipal Airport received a $200,000 federal grant to fill asphalt cracks that are up to two inches wide and spanning feet upon feet on the taxiway and runway.

"We have runway and taxiway issues that we need to take care of," said the airport's manager, Robert Uecker.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced in late April that the airport was one out of eight New Mexico facilities receiving Federal Aviation Administration funds for improvements.

Cracks in the asphalt, created over time, need to be sealed before water goes underneath the base of the pavement and washes it away, which can lead to pavement failures, such aspot holes, Uecker said.

"It's part of taking care of infrastructure," he said. "It extends the life of the pavement. We spend a little bit now instead of a lot later."

A few of the cracks are up to two inches wide, spreading across the width of the 60-foot runway or the 30-foot taxiway, Uecker said.

The federal entitlement funds are provided through FAA's Airport Improvement Program, said Jane Lucero, New Mexico Department of Transportation's Aviation Division airport development administrator.

Lucero said this is "a wonderful program," since it covers a large portion of costs needed by small airports from around the state on tight budgets.

"We have so many needs," she said.

Of the $200,000, the state aviation division and city of Belen contribute a match of 5 percent, or $10,000.

Keeping local airports up and running is vital in small town communities, Bingaman said in a news release.

"Airports are important to a community's ability to attract business and jobs," he said.

Lucero agreed.

"It's going to help them first of all maintain their pavement and make their airport a safe, operating airport, and then it's going to bring jobs to the local area," she said.

Repairs to the pavements will last about two days in August.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.