Business leaders and builders joined city, county and federal officials Wednesday to celebrate the imminent start of a $53.8 million project to lengthen the runways at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
"Is this a great day, huh?" County Supervisor Mike McGuire told a crowd gathered inside a cavernous hangar for the runway project's ceremonial groundbreaking.
Scheduled for completion in October 2014, the project will fulfill a plan hatched 15 years ago to make the county's only commercial airport safer — and potentially attract more air traffic.
Proposed Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport Improvements
"This is incredibly important for our area," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. "This is big stuff."
McGuire joked that Thompson, whose district includes Santa Rosa, arrived with a $39.7 million check in his pocket, referring to the three Department of Transportation grants that Thompson announced Wednesday.
Another grant of about $3 million will come later this year, Airport Manager Jon Stout said, and the county's share of the runway project will be $5.2million to $5.8 million.
The balance of the funding is expected over the next two years, he said.
O.C. Jones & Sons Inc. of Berkeley was awarded a $22.7 million construction contract in June and will start work the week of Sept. 9, Stout said.
Environmental mitigation costs linked to the project amount to more than $20 million.
Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt said it was Sonoma County's second most expensive project, behind the $60 million juvenile justice center opened at Los Guilicos in 2005.