Source: Oak Ridge Today | John Huotari | August 5, 2015

The Heritage Center airport development plan is pictured above. The airport site is the area pictured in yellow. The main entrance to Heritage Center off Oak Ridge Turnpike is at bottom left, in the area of the ponds. (Cropped image from DOE Draft Environmental Assessment)

The Heritage Center airport development plan is pictured above. The airport site is the area pictured in yellow. The main entrance to Heritage Center off Oak Ridge Turnpike is at bottom left, in the area of the ponds. (Cropped image from DOE Draft Environmental Assessment)

About 170 acres of land at a federal site in west Oak Ridge could be transferred to a nonprofit organization for a new general aviation airport that would feature a 5,000-foot runway and accommodate airplanes and helicopters.

The airport would be built on the south side of Heritage Center, which is also known as East Tennessee Technology Park and the former K-25 site. The runway would be close to and run roughly parallel to Oak Ridge Turnpike/State Route 58.

A draft environmental assessment, or EA, has been prepared for the property transfer. It evaluates the potential impacts of transferring the ETTP land from the U.S. Department of Energy to the nonprofit Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. DOE and MKAA representatives will be available to discuss the proposed action during a public information session from 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 19, at the DOE Information Center. The Information Center is on the west end of the building that houses the Office of Scientific and Technical Information in east Oak Ridge.

No formal presentation is planned, and the public may stop by at any time during the session.

The airport has been under study for several years, starting with a preliminary assessment that the MKAA agreed to sponsor in September 2009. The MKAA, which owns and operates McGhee Tyson Airport and Downtown Island Airport, requested the property transfer in June 2013. In August 2013, DOE said it would evaluate it.

“The proposed Oak Ridge airport is intended by the MKAA to support the needs of the general aviation community in the Oak Ridge and Knoxville region and to enhance the development potential of the area by attracting new businesses/industries to the Heritage Center,” the draft EA said. “Because the runway length at Knoxville Downtown Island Airport limits operations to small general aviation aircraft and has a waiting list of 125 persons requesting hangar space, the MKAA has determined that the proposed Oak Ridge airport is needed for the improvement of air service in the region.”

The draft EA said the new airport could be a tool in revitalization efforts under way at Heritage Center by encouraging new business development and providing “highly sought-after access for corporate aircraft fleet.” It could also act as a gateway to the Oak Ridge community, “opening new opportunities in tourism and job creation that could also help offset economic losses resulting from continued DOE downsizing, facility closures, and workforce restructuring,” the document said.

Among the aircraft that could use it are corporate jets, private airplanes, and emergency medical services aircraft. A typical aircraft on the 75-foot-wide runway could be a Beechcraft King Air 350i. The single runway would be laid out roughly east-west (Runway 6 for eastbound traffic and Runway 24 for westbound).

The proposed Oak Ridge airport would be a “reliever airport” for McGhee Tyson Airport in Blount County. Considered a community business airport, the Oak Ridge site would provide improved general aviation access and help relieve congestion and complement Downtown Island Airport, the other general aviation reliever airport, the draft EA said.

The proposed Oak Ridge airport site is nearly midway between the Rockwood Municipal Airport and McGhee Tyson Airport, the draft EA said. It estimates that there could be about 49,713 operations per year from local and visiting aircraft in Oak Ridge. That compares to more than 102,000 aircraft operations at McGhee Tyson in 2013 and 17,500 in Rockwood in 2012.

The specific property to be transferred at ETTP would include Parcel ED-13, Parcel ED-16, a portion of Parcel ED-3, and Victorius Boulevard. The property could be transferred at no cost. The MKAA would need to obtain additional property that has already been transferred from DOE to the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, or CROET. That property includes K-1330, K-1580, portions of Parcel ED-4, and Parcel ED-8.

The draft EA said airport development would require closing part of Victorius Boulevard, the eastern entrance on the south side of ETTP, and the demolition of buildings K-1330 and K-1580. The construction would also affect Blair Road, which connects SR 58 with State Route 61 to the north, and the Haul Road, which is used to ship ETTP cleanup debris to the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility west of the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Officials have developed options for rerouting Haul Road and part of Blair Road.

The draft EA was prepared for the DOE Office of Environmental Management by subcontractor Leidos, which was formerly part of Science Applications International Corporation. It includes information on airspace, air quality, noise, safety, land use, socioeconomics, infrastructure, waste management, geology and soils, and water, ecological, and cultural resources.

The draft EA said the Federal Aviation Administration officially included the Oak Ridge airport in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems in January 2015, making it eligible for Airport Improvement Program grants for airport planning and development.

The Heritage Center is a DOE site that was once used to enrich uranium for commercial power plants and nuclear weapons, but it is now being converted into a large industrial park.

The airport site being considered at Heritage was one of three that were evaluated. The other two were at Horizon Center northeast of Heritage Center and Parcel ED-3, which is south of Heritage Center and south of SR 58.

The DOE Information Center is in Building 1916-T1 at 1 Science.gov Way in Oak Ridge.

The draft environmental assessment for the property transfer for the airport can be viewed here. You may also contact the DOE Information Center for a copy by calling (865) 241-4780 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You may submit written comments by August 31 to:

Ben Williams, U.S. Department of Energy

Oak Ridge Office, 200 Administration Road

Oak Ridge, TN 37830

or to ben.williams@orem.doe.gov.