(Editor’s Note: In keeping with the recently announced Chamber of Commerce auction theme,”Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” the Journal will take a look at each aspect and how it has or will effect the city of Ennis. For more information concerning the auction, contact the chamber at (972) 878-2625.)

The existing airport, which is municipally owned is located two miles west of the city and has become increasingly surrounded by residential homes that have settled as close as they can, without being in violation of the clear-fly zone surrounding the airport.

Due to this and several other reasons including using the airport property for residential growth, the city is in the process of decommissioning the existing airport and rebuilding at a location that is more convenient and also away free from residential lots. As the city continues to grow, the need for residential property increases and when the existing airport is decommissioned, it will free up property for growth.

“Decommissioning the existing airport would free up 1,200 acres for residential growth,” said City Manager Steve Howerton.

If the land were turned into numerous residential lots to be sold, the city would split the proceeds of the sales with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The city commissioners received confirmation in April that the Texas Department of Transportation will fund the master plan and environmental assessment portions in the plan for the replacement airport that will be built within the next few years.

The assessment process will be completed within 12-18 months and would bring the city closer to its goal of a new airport facility. A contract for the project is expected to be awarded by the end of the year.

The project began in 2004 with an airport improvement grant, but after an assessment by airport consultants, Coffman and Associates, the upgrade was not feasible.

“The original plan of an upgrade to the existing airport was something the city considered until Coffman and Associates studied the proposed expansion and found that is was not economically feasible. They have a tremendous amount of expertise that we don’t have and we trust their judgment,” Howerton said.

The proposed replacement airport will have far reaching effects for the city and has been predominantly funded by a series of FAA grants that are 90 percent state funded with the remaining 10 percent being funded by the city of Ennis. So far, the city has received grants for airport improvement; airport needs assessment and airport site selection.

“We are about two years into a six-seven year endeavor and hope to have the next phase of the plan completed within the next year so we can move closer to our goal,” Howerton said.

The master plan should get started in October with the beginning of the next budget year and should take about one year to complete.

A meeting with TxDOT was held earlier this month involving all the airport facilities in Ellis County to talk about upcoming planning and construction. Each facility discussed where they were headed for the future and gave the TxDOT officials input as to what types of funding and support they would need in the next year.

“The meeting went very well and I think it is a good way to know what the rest of the county is up to and see where we can help one another. For example, while one site is down for repairs, another will see an increase in traffic. It helps to be prepared and it allows the TxDOT people to see what the needs of the county really are,” said Howerton.

To view TxDOT’s capital improvement plan for the Ennis airport, visit their Web site, www.txdot.com and look under Texas Airport Systems Plan.

E-mail Candie at candie.adams@ennisjournal.com