MAC gets federal money for Anoka County Airport safety upgrades

Taxiway lighting to help pilots see better when approaching from the air and upgraded reflective directional signs are soon to come to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport.

Upgraded directional signs and new taxiway lighting will be coming to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport later this year. This photo was taken at the St. Paul airport. Courtesy of Metropolitan Airports Commission
Upgraded directional signs and new taxiway lighting will be coming to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport later this year. This photo was taken at the St. Paul airport. Courtesy of Metropolitan Airports Commission

The $370,480 awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation covers all construction costs for a project that will be completed this summer. The Metropolitan Airports Commission will cover $130,000 in design, engineering and construction administration costs, according to Al Dye, MAC project engineer.

“Investing in Minnesota’s airports boosts our economy and promotes safety,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The news was announced in a joint press release by the congressional offices of U.S. Sens. Klobuchar and Al Franken and 6th Congressional District Rep. Tom Emmer.

The improvements come at an opportune time. Between January and May 2015, the air traffic control tower, which is staffed 16 hours a day, recorded approximately 33,000 aircraft taking off and landing at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. This is a 30 percent increase from that same time period in 2014. May 2015 was the busiest month the airport has had since at least 2010, according to Joe Harris, manager of the Anoka County-Blaine Airport.

“We’re seeing a lot more hobbyist and recreational pilots that are attributing to these spikes in the numbers,” Harris said.

Taxiway lights are the small lights that make it easier for a pilot to spot the taxiway from the air. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport has these lights, as do three out of six Twin Cities reliever airports: Crystal, Flying Cloud in Eden Prairie and St. Paul. The Anoka County-Blaine Airport will join this list and will only have the lights on one of its taxiways. Reliever airports in Lake Elmo and Lakeville do not have these lights, according to Dye.

Pilots need airfield guidance signs as much as drivers need street signs. The Anoka County-Blaine Airport already has these directional and location signs on every taxiway, but not every sign is constantly lit at night. Some only have reflective surfaces that light up when illuminated, similar to a road sign lighting up when car headlights shine on it. More signs will have lights shining on them at night, and other signs still not being lit will get new reflective material, according to Harris.

Harris said these safety upgrades will help everyone from the pilot operating a small personal aircraft to the pilot of a corporate jet. These two projects are another in a long line of safety improvements that have taken place at this airport in the last several years, which have also included an instrument landing system to help pilots land in inclement weather and adding 1,000 feet to the main runway.

“This grant will allow for the necessary safety upgrades that will help support commerce, trade and travel in the area,” Emmer said.

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