Change in runway heading prompts $964K paint, surface project at Missoula airport

Missoula International Airport will be closing its main runway for several hours each day next month to complete a nearly $1 million project to reseal the runway’s surface and apply new numbers that represent the airfield’s shift in magnetic alignment. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Missoula International Airport will close its main runway for several hours each day next month to complete a nearly $1 million project to reseal the surface and apply new numbers that represent the airfield’s shift in magnetic alignment.

The Missoula County Airport Authority this week awarded the project contract to Maxwell Asphalt. The company’s bid of $964,000 was the lowest of six bids submitted for the project and came in 36 percent below the engineer’s estimate of $1.5 million.

All six bids were vetted by Morrison-Maierle.

“We started planning on this a year ago and planning with the airlines for the runway shutdowns,” said Shaun Shae of Morrison-Maierle. “We’ve been out there with them pretty much for the whole project. The bid they gave us was reflective of the competition.”

A year ago, airport officials noted a shift in magnetic alignment of the airport runways, which didn’t happen overnight. The change resulted from a shift of the magnetic pole, something that occurs naturally over time.

The numbers assigned to runways are based on compass settings. If one were to stand on the runway and align his or her compass, it would read 110 degrees at one end and 290 degrees at the other.

That alignment resulted in the original runway designations of 11/29 and 7/25. Now that will change to 12/30 and 8/26, marking a difference of roughly 10 degrees.

Starting on April 24, crews will begin to seal and resurface the runway and paint the new numbers. They will also complete grading work and install new sign panels on the airfield.

“We’ll be closed from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day,” said airport director Cris Jensen. “That’ll affect our flight schedule for those eight days. We’re hoping for good weather. If we have weather issues, we’ll have to move some of that work to nighttime operations.”