Pilots flying over the Blue Earth Municipal Airport this summer see a gigantic yellow "X" where the airport's runway is supposed to be.
The "X" means the runway is closed.
Instead, pilots need to land their planes on the brand new concrete taxiway, which parallels the runway.
"It's been a little hairy," local pilot Jim Ekse says, about landing on the taxiway. "It's pretty narrow. I don't know how someone in a larger plane does it. Not much room for error."
The reason the taxiway has been used all summer is the complete makeover of the runway.
"It is all part of the overall airport improvement project," Blue Earth City Administrator Kathy Bailey says. "We have been working on this for over two years."
Two years ago the taxiway was built out of concrete, as well as an apron and approach area. It was finished last summer.
"We were supposed to start on the new runway right away in the summer of 2011," Bailey says. "But, the funding from the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) was delayed and not released until October of 2011 which was too late in the construction season."
So, the airport runway was closed this spring and work began. The old runway pavement was removed as well as a lot of dirt underneath.
The whole project was originally slated to be completed by last Saturday, July 1.
"We knew that date was unrealistic," Bailey says, "due to the late release of the FAA funding."
At their last meeting, the Blue Earth City Council agreed to extend the completion date to Aug. 10.
"Essentially all of the work will be done by that time," Bailey says. "The concrete should all be poured and the runway open again."
The final date, when all of the sod and landscape is completed, is set for Sept. 7, city engineer Wes Brown of Bolton and Menk Engineers told the council at their last meeting.
Total cost of this Phase Two portion of the airport project the new runway is $2.2 million.
Most of the funds are from the FAA, but Blue Earth's share will be 5 percent.
"We will handle our share out of airport revenues," Bailey says. "Those come from hangar rents, farmland leases and state payments."
No local tax levy money is involved in the total project, Bailey adds.