South Ala. airfield poised to climb higher thanks to federal funding

$3 million runway expansion underway at Union Springs airport

UNION SPRINGS, Ala. (WSFA) - Franklin Field got its start more than 50 years ago and since that time it’s been a beacon for private pilots and nothing more. But maybe not for long, according to Cope Lawrence.

“That’s what I’m excited about. What is going to happen once we do get through with this extension," said Lawrence, vice-president of the Franklin Field Board of Directors.

There is a real drive today to send Franklin Field to greater heights thanks to nearly $4 million in federal funding. The funds will pay for the runway expansion underway now plus the re-routing of part of Bullock County Road 177 to make room for the additional runway, stretching it from 3,100 feet to more than 5,000 feet.

”It’s this whole 177 repaved throughout the community of Cornerstone. It’s an upgrade in this community as well," said Bullock County Commission Chairman Alonza Ellis, Jr.

Union Springs officials are hoping a runway expansion means more jets will bring economic opportunities to the area.
Union Springs officials are hoping a runway expansion means more jets will bring economic opportunities to the area. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

In theory, a longer runway paves the way for more visits by corporate types. In fact, two mid-sized companies are already taking a look at Bullock County. The combined companies could bring a total of around 40 jobs.

“We think that’s going to springboard us, to help us have other opportunities," said Bullock County Economic Development Authority Director David Padgett.

Local economic officials say they’re well aware of the old adage; don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In this case, however, they don’t have a choice.

”We’re not close to a river. We’re not close to an interstate," Padgett noted.

It’s not so much the county is in dire straights. After all, the jobless rate is around 4 percent. That equates to around 250 people unemployed. There is also a waiting list for pilots to move their planes into the hangar which, for now, is full at Franklin Field. It’s the plodding along local officials want to speed up.

“We can’t afford to be nervous. We just gotta move forward. We’re not going to dwell on that. We’re going to do our best and we’re going to make it work," said Bullock County Commissioner Henry Barnett.

While the big machines do their work to carve out the expanded runway on the western end, four men are placing their hopes and dreams the expansion will unlock Franklin Field’s potential. The runway extension will take about a year.

In addition to Franklin Field, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby’s $20 million for regional airports also include:

*$8.1 million for Lanett Municipal Airport (runway extension)

*$5.5 million for Centre-Piedmont-Cherokee County Regional Airport (construction of taxiway)

*$2.2 million for Vaiden Field Airport in Marion, Alabama (construction of parallel taxiway)

*1.4 million for Scottsboro Municipal-Word Field Airport (rehabilitation of an apron)

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