HARRISON, NY — The main runway at Westchester County Airport has been completely rehabilitated, a project that was supposed to take three months but ended up taking only three weeks. Closing down the runway entirely during the new coronavirus pandemic was the "silver lining," said County Executive George Latimer.
Latimer held his Wednesday coronavirus briefing on Runway 16/34, which will reopen full length and width for aircraft operations at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Westchester continues to see a downward trend in cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, Latimer said. The fatality rate in the county has been 4 percent since the outbreak began at the beginning of March. There are currently 2,091 active cases.
The Mid-Hudson region, of which Westchester County is a part, is closer to reopening its economy. According to the state's monitoring dashboard, the region has had an average of 7 COVID-19 deaths daily in hospitals for the past three days. The benchmark is fewer than 5 deaths per day.
The new coronavirus pandemic created an opportunity for the airport project, which had been slated to begin in the fall Latimer said. When the main runway closed for rehabilitation on April 27, there had been a deep drop in aviation activity.
Moving up the schedule saved some money and avoided disruption to operations and neighbors, Latimer said. The runway also has fewer joints because there were fewer interruptions to asphalt pouring. As much as 6,000 tons of asphalt were placed in one day.
The extreme downturn in flight activities worldwide not only reduced the overall construction schedule but also improved the quality of the final pavement surface, which ultimately extends the service life of the runway, Airport Manager Peter Scherrer said.
"Once the airport is operating again there will be no disruption to the traveling public," Latimer said, acknowledging that the airline industry has been deeply affected by the pandemic.
Another silver lining which Latimer pointed out is that residents worried about airport noise have gotten a 2.5 month respite.
Latimer emphasized that the renovation neither lengthened nor strengthened the runway — the kind of work that could the airport to expand operations, its opponents say.
"I know there's a lot of sensitivity to what happens here," he said.