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Gambell Airport Receives $9.3 Million for Improvements

A road in Gambell, Alaska
A boy riding a bike under towering skies in Gambell, Alaska.

Gambell’s airport will receive $9.3 million in federal grants to make improvements to its infrastructure. The grants are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, which provides funds each year to public airports around the country for projects to improve safety, security, capacity, and environmental impact.

Jonathan Hutchinson is engineering manager for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT), northern region. He says the funds will be used to completely reconstruct the Gambell airport’s runway, taxiway, and other surfaces.

“The pavement out there is in pretty poor shape. It hasn’t had an overlay in a long time, and it’s subject to quite a bit of erosion during storm surges out there,” said Hutchinson.

Although the project will be a major overhaul of the airport’s operational surfaces, Hutchinson says disruption to airport service during construction will be minimal.

“That’s one of the biggest concerns for us, is really minimizing impacts to operations. Particularly out there in Gambell, there’s very limited flights that come in. The plan right now is to go to a half-width construction, which means planes can still land. It is limited operations, but we don’t have to turn any flights away so there wouldn’t be any cancellations.”

With the design now complete, construction companies can soon begin bidding to make the design a reality. The DOT is required to award the project to the lowest bidder, but Hutchinson says local companies often have an advantage in this regard.

“They have local connections and access to local materials. You can’t specifically at this point go out to a community and require our contractors to hire a big local crew, but there are a lot of good contractors up here that we’ve dealt with in the past that are really good at doing those sorts of things.”

Hutchinson and his team plan to visit Gambell ahead of construction to talk about local job opportunities.

Construction will likely begin in early summer of next year. The bidding period for the project is expected to open later this week.

Photo at top: A young boy rides his bike down a road in Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, accessible only by plane or boat. Photo: KNOM

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