A portion of the north-south cargo runway at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has finished ahead of schedule. The runway is being repaved for the first time in 15 years and is part of phase one in a three-phase $100 million runway and taxiway renovation project. 

"This is part of a two-phase project with this runway," Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak said. "We did the best we could to get the work done that we needed to get done. The runway is now open so that airplanes are available to use it but it is shortened so not all airplanes will be able to use it."

Planes like the 737s and smaller are now allowed to use the runway. Larger planes, 747s and bigger, may still be required to take off over the city.

"It depends on the winds and the weather," Szczesniak said. "Also what the bigger planes are carrying and where they are going. It's a complex formula that needs to be figured out whether these bigger planes can accept the runway or not."

In general, the smaller planes will be able to accept the shorter runway compared to the larger ones. This, in turn, will reduce some of the noise residents have been dealing with as the planes under the construction flight path have been made to arrive and depart over the city rather than over the water.

"Again, some larger planes could use the shorter runway if their loads are light and they are going a shorter distance and don't have much fuel," Szczesniak said. "It really depends on how much they are carrying to determine if they can use it or not. As far as how much noise this will reduce, we don't have a firm number on that right now because the runway just opened. We should see a lot of the smaller aircraft shift over to this runway and it should be a noticeable change."

In the fall, the full length of the north-south runway will open for use. Currently, construction workers are still working on another section of the runway-- behind a blast fence to keep them safe from debris blown from plane engines.

"Once the runway opens up to its full length, we will be able to do our normal operations," Szczesniak said. "The large planes will return to the north-south runway and once again arrive and depart over the water and not go over the city."

Back to normalcy will only last for the length of the winter as construction will once again start up in May of 2019 to complete the project. Planes once again will be diverted to arrive and depart over the city. There are three airfield construction projects in the works that involve repaving runways, widening runways, improving access, safety and work on several taxiways.

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