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updated: 2/11/2014 7:51 AM

New Gary airport operator to push runway extension

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Associated Press

The new private operator of the Gary/Chicago International Airport is looking to jump-start its stalled runway extension project.

A major hurdle facing the project is removal of railroad embankment that is blocking a 1,900-foot extension of the airport's main 7,000-foot runway so it can handle larger planes.

Aviation Facilities Co. will put its own engineers and consultants on the job, company vice president Steve Forrer told The Times of Munster ( ).

The airport must reach agreements for moving the tracks near the airport near Lake Michigan.

The Gary Airport Authority last week approved a 40-year contract with the company for real estate development at the facility.

The Federal Aviation Administration has said the airport's current runway lacks adequate safety areas and will have to be shortened by 1,000 feet if the extension isn't completed. That would make the runway unusable for most passenger airliners and many corporate business jets.

Gary Jet Center Managing Partner Lynn Eplawy said the runway extension is critical.

"The priority needs to be that runway expansion and then continuing to develop it," Eplawy said.

The runway project has been underway since 2006 and has faced multiple delays.

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