The Hillsdale Municipal Airport began construction on the second phase of its taxiway expansion in August, with work expected to continue through October.
A federal grant is funding the $1.4 million project, which is part of a decade-long plan to build a path that will connect the airport’s runway with its hangars and terminal.
The expansion is expected to reduce the risk of collision by providing a safer route for planes to reach the runway.
“The parallel taxiway extension project is a much-needed safety upgrade, significantly reducing the risk posed to aircraft of having to backtaxi using the single 5,000 foot runway, and allowing for simultaneous operations of taxiway and runway traffic,” according to a City of Hillsdale press release.
The taxiway spans from the T‑hangers which store aircraft, to the east end of the runway, Hillsdale Municipal Airport Manager Ginger Moore said.
Phase 1, which was started in 2015, consisted of a partial taxiway starting at the west end of the runway. The third phase, which will start after the second is complete, will join the two taxiways.
Moore said the project has run “as smooth as silk.”
City Manager David Mackie said the taxiway helps the airport manage increasing traffic.
“We’ve gotten more jets associated with the college over the last several years,” Mackie said. “We didn’t used to have this kind of traffic.”
Typical traffic for the public airport includes business flyers, visitors to the college, and people taking flight lessons.
“We actually had four jets take off at one time which is a big, big thing for the airport,” Mackie said.
Hillsdale residents expressed support for the expansion, according to Mackie. He said it will increase revenue within the community and does not require local tax dollars, as the new taxiway is funded entirely by the federal government.
Alex Dehaan, airfield engineer, explained that federal funding usually flows through the Michigan Department of Transportation. For the taxiway, however, Moore requested funds directly from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“She really tried to make it a point to go to the FAA themselves and ask for funding for the airport project and it worked out,” Dehaan said. “Interestingly enough, it cuts out the Michigan DOT entirely, and we are coordinating this all with the FAA.”
Moore said she hopes the airport will lead to a positive first impression of Hillsdale for those who land there.
“Oftentimes your first impression means a lot,” Moore said. “When people walk off the airplane and they see this beautiful airport, they have a good impression from the get-go.”