Fayette County

Big changes at Blue Grass Airport. Better parking, improved taxiways coming.

Pizzas delivered to Lexington airport TSA workers during shutdown

Father Jim Sichko, a Central Kentucky Catholic priest, delivered pizzas to Blue Grass Airport TSA employees and air traffic controllers because of the government shutdown. Many federal employees are working without paychecks.
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Father Jim Sichko, a Central Kentucky Catholic priest, delivered pizzas to Blue Grass Airport TSA employees and air traffic controllers because of the government shutdown. Many federal employees are working without paychecks.

Blue Grass Airport received a $11 million federal grant this week to help it complete a multi-year expansion of its taxiways as it continues to experience record passenger growth.

It’s just one of many new construction projects at Lexington’s airport.

The U.S. Department of Transportation competitive grant totaling $11,095,200 will be used to help pay for a new, 3,500-foot parallel taxiway as part of the final phase of a five-phase taxiway safety improvement program, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office announced this week.

“This project — Phase V of the Taxiway Safety Enhancement Program — represents the culmination of seven years of planning, design, and construction efforts to improve the safety and efficiency of Blue Grass Airport,” said Eric Frankl, executive director of Blue Grass Airport.

The realignment of the airport’s main taxiway will not just improve safety but also provide additional connectivity for aircraft, airport officials said.

“Earlier phases in this program included relocation of the airport’s snow removal equipment complex in 2015 and relocation of the airport’s aircraft rescue and firefighting facility, which began in August 2018 and is currently underway,” said Amy Caudill, director of marketing and community relations for the airport. “The relocation of these two facilities makes the necessary improvements to the taxiway possible. Today’s funding will allow us to begin the final taxiway work. Combined costs for the entire five-phase program are expected to be approximately $66 million once completed. “

The taxiway improvements are due to be completed in July 2020.

In addition to improving its taxiways, the airport started an ambitious $5.8 million overhaul of its parking area in late April. Those improvements will increase parking from 640 to 985 parking spaces.

The $5.8 million project will also help the airport make changes to better align with how people use technology to travel.

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Work is underway at Blue Grass Airport on a $5.8 million overhaul of its parking structures. The project will increase spaces from 640 to 987. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

It will build a new cell phone 40-space parking lot where drivers can wait to meet arriving passengers. The current lot has only eight spots. Future plans for that lot also include a picnic area where aviation enthusiasts can watch planes take off and land.

Beginning May 1, the airport designated multiple curbside areas for Lyft and Uber customers to meet drivers. Prior to that, Lyft and Uber customers had to figure out a designated spot to meet drivers, creating confusion for both driver and rider.

All of these changes will help decrease curb-side congestion at the terminal, Caudill said. Plans also include a covered pedestrian walkway from long-term parking to the terminal, better lighting throughout the parking area and new landscaping.

The parking lot improvements are ongoing and are scheduled to be completed in spring 2020. But long-term parking won’t move far from the terminal, Frankl said.

“We appreciate our passengers’ patience during the construction process,” said Frankl. “With parking just steps from the terminal, short security screening lines and fewer crowds, passengers will continue to enjoy the benefits that come with an airport the size of LEX.”

Many of the changes are driven by the need to accommodate more passengers, he said.

“In the last five years, Blue Grass Airport has experienced over 20 percent passenger growth,”Frankl said.

In January, the airport announced it set a passenger record for the seventh straight year. It routinely serves more than 1.3 million passengers a year.

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