In 2008, the city of New Braunfels developed a 20-year master plan for its regional airport that is located on the city’s rural east side. Fast-forward a decade, and Robert Lee, director of the New Braunfels Regional Airport, says things have changed.
“New Braunfels is growing; the airport is growing; operations are up,” Lee said. “We’re getting more corporate traffic coming into New Braunfels.”
Because the forecasted business and traffic has changed, the city is updating the master plan, which will reset the life of the document to serve as a roadmap through 2038. Lee said that while the airport can handle the current demand, he hopes to get ahead of projected growth.
“I think I would rather be ready when business comes than not be able to handle it, and aviation is a finicky business, especially folks that fly their own aircraft,” he said. “So if you get companies who come in and it’s too crowded, they’ll go somewhere else.”
A Community Asset
The New Braunfels Regional Airport is a public-use general aviation facility.
The city is working with KSA, an airport consulting firm, to develop the updated master plan concepts. According to Michael Mallonee, manager of aviation planning services for KSA, the airport is an asset for New Braunfels.
“The airport is a generator for economic development because it is the front door to the community and allows businesses to come into the community when they are doing site studies and looking at corporate relocations and corporate job opportunities,” Mallonee said.
A summer 2018 economic impact study conducted by the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division looked at the number of jobs, the amount spent on payroll costs, and the output of goods and services related to Texas airports.
First-hand, or direct, benefits from the New Braunfels Regional Airport include providing 113 jobs and an annual output of $14.9 million. Multiplier impacts, which describe additional benefits driven by the recirculation of direct airport activity, create an additional 127 jobs and $12.1 million of annual output. Altogether the 240 jobs provide a total payroll of $7.7 million.
Mallonee said essential services also operate out of the airport and that the entire community benefits even if they never go to the airport or take a flight.
“So you have everything from emergency medical services, medical flights and public safety operations that benefit the entire community,” he said.
Exploring the master plan options
As the master plan update is in the planning stages, several options are on the table.
For aircraft operations, Lee said there are two aspects that carry equal weight: extending the main runway and updating its connecting taxiways.
In 2014 the airport’s longest runway was extended to 6,503 feet, and Lee said the airport hopes to extend it to at least 7,000 with the update. The airport’s second runway is 5,364 feet.
Lee said a runway extension of 500 to 1,000 feet is part of each set of options the city is considering. However, extending it beyond 500 feet would require acquiring more land.
“Realistically it will be 500 to 800 feet that we’ll be able to go,” Lee said.
According to Lee, a longer runway would increase safety and allow for larger aircraft to come in. It would also allow existing planes to carry more weight, which would maximize
Three taxiways that connect to the runways will likely be addressed in the master plan, converting them to 90-degree turns that meet current Federal Aviation Administration airport design standards. Funding would likely come from FAA grant money, Lee said. According to TxDOT’s economic impact study, the New Braunfels Regional Airport is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, making it eligible for Airport Improvement Program grants.
KSA is also exploring several terminal options. One concept expands the current terminal while another idea positions a new terminal on the airport’s west side that would be surrounded by additional hangars.
Lee said one of the terminal options could include a public/private partnership where restaurants and other small businesses could set up shop. However, funding will be a key deciding factor.
According TxDOT’s study, the New Braunfels Regional Airport is supported by funding through the city and the New Braunfels Economic Development Corp., which provides matching assistance for capital improvements.
“The city and airport work harmoniously to facilitate growth,” the study states.
In regard to cost projections for the potential master plan concepts, Lee said KSA is still working to finalize the numbers.
Currently a taxilane extension project is underway that allows for four additional hangars to be built. After that phase is complete, Lee said it is likely the airport will move forward with extending the taxilane to FM 758 and add an additional six hangars that would allow for more aircraft to be based in New Braunfels.
At the first public workshop that was held May 23 many nearby residents expressed concerns about Saur Lane, the road that borders the airport’s west side. Increased business for the airport could mean more traffic on the road.
“I live right across from the airport, and our concerns of course are whether or not it’s going to mess up the value of our property and of course if there is going to be a bigger thoroughfare through here. The traffic already is just incredible,”
said Stephanie Timmerman, a Saur resident. “We have over 800 cars a day that come down this road, and they don’t drive 30 miles per hour. Sometimes you can’t even get out of your driveway.”
Lee said Saur will not be addressed in the airport master plan; however, city Public Works Director Greg Malatek said roads in the area are on the city’s radar.
“With all the other needs we haven’t gotten any type of planning project or anything funded through TxDOT right now, but we do have a project in place for a proposed 2019 bond project on Barbarosa Road from FM 1101 to Alves Lane, so that project would be one of the first phases of connecting [I-35] to FM 758,” Malatek said. “Most of the traffic that comes to the airport right now comes down Hwy. 46 and then uses FM 758.”
The second and final public workshop surrounding the airport master plan, which precedes final decisions for the document, will take place at Alamo Colleges-Central Texas Technology Center, 2189 FM 758, New Braunfels, on Oct. 30 from 5:30-7 p.m.
Mallonee said details on potential projects, timing, phasing, overall costs and possible funding sources will be items of discussion at the meeting.