(WBIR - Alcoa) McGhee Tyson Airport is preparing to begin its largest construction project in the airport's 77-year history.

"It's necessary because of the age and condition of the airport," said William "Bill" Marrison, president of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority (MKAA).

The $108 million project will consist of many renovations to the airport's runways and taxiways. The project is estimated to take about six years to complete.

Wednesday afternoon, MKAA commissioners voted to approve the selection of CHA Consulting of Nashville, TN as the program manager for McGhee Tyson Airport's Airfield Modernization Program. CHA will oversee work with airport staff to coordinate the runway construction project that will culminate in the rehabilitation of both of the airports' 9,000 feet of runways.

The improvement project will be broken into four phases:

Phase One is the installation of an Instrument Landing System (ILS). Also, additional maintenance work will be performed on the runway closest to the airport terminal building.. This runway does not currently have an ILS approach, which will be needed during portions of the project so the runway can act as the airport's primary runway.

Phase Two involves the complete closure and rehabilitation of the runway furthest from the airport terminal building. The Airfield Modernization Program will completely replace the existing runway. This process involves the removal of runway concrete that is almost three feet deep, 150 feet wide and 9,000 feet long.

Once Runway 5R-23L is complete, it will be open to act as the airport's primary runaway and Phase Three will begin. During this phase of the project, Runway 5L-23R will be refreshed to bring it in line with the new runway system.

And finally, Phase Four involves restructuring the airport's taxiway system to make it more efficient.

While construction crews are working on the runways, Marrison said travelers will face very little impact.

"Travelers may see some construction machinery on the airfield that they're not used to seeing, but that will be the only impact and the airport will remain fully operational and open during the entire period," he said.

The project will be funded through the Transportation Equity Fund and the federally funded Airport Improvements Program. No local taxpayer dollars will be used for the Airfield Modernization Program.

Marrison said he's hopeful the airport board will be presented with a contract at its July meeting, with construction starting "very quickly thereafter".

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