Oak Ridge Airport Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Published: May 2021

Background:

In 2009, the City of Oak Ridge was advised of an initiative to begin the development of a new general aviation airport in the City. The airport was proposed to be under the ownership and operation of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority (MKAA), which began significant planning efforts on the project.

Between 2012 and 2020, MKAA, which was the recognized agency to lead the planning, researched funding and conducted technical reviews to demonstrate the need for the regional general aviation airport.

On July 21, 2020, City Council approved Resolution 7-75-2020 authorizing actions related to the Oak Ridge General Aviation Airport. These actions included seeking transfer of sponsorship of the airport from MKAA to the City of Oak Ridge and initiating transfers of grants related to the airport to the City. MKAA agreed to transfer sponsorship to the City on September 28, 2020, through an assignment and assumption agreement. City staff took steps to transfer grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Tennessee Aeronautics Economic Development Fund (AEDF) from MKAA to the City to realign it with the new sponsorship.

Where will the airport be located?

East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) at Heritage Center, on the site of the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (a.k.a. K-25) and adjacent or roughly parallel to Oak Ridge Turnpike (Hwy 58).

How is the airport being paid for? How much will it cost?

No significant funding from the City is anticipated at this time for the project. For grants which require matches, funding will either come from grants from other agencies or in-kind donations. Further authorization would be required from City Council once actual costs are determined by the preliminary design.  

Approximately $22 million in funding is currently available and allocated for the airport project through the ARC and the AEDF.  In-kind contributions from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET) for the value of land to be transferred at minimal cost for this project, and an additional $11 million in State funding is contingent upon approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA has yet to determine the contribution it will make to the project, but the Benefit-Cost Analysis calls for $20 million in funding.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has provided a $40,000 grant for the project.

In March 2021, UT-Battelle Development Corporation contributed $500,000 to assist with the project. The funds are intended to help secure state and/or federal grants that require local matching dollars.

EnergySolutions donated an abandoned track where part of the proposed airport’s 5,000-foot runway would go.

Based on a 2018 estimate, the project is expected to cost about $55 million.

Who is working on the project?

The airport project is being managed by the City Manager’s Office. The proposed project has received widespread regional support, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Chambers of Commerce in Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and Blount County.

What will the airport be used for?

The airport, with a 5,000-foot runway, will support general aviation in the Oak Ridge Corridor region, as current capacity is limited in this market and does not support projected growth and future demand. The proposed airport will support growth in the business, industrial, and tourism sectors leaders to fly to Oak Ridge, putting the City on the map for technology companies. It would incentivize industry developing nearby – like Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals Corp., which is an Eastern U.S. distribution company that helps medical isotopes. The DOE has also voiced their support for the project and stated that it will benefit their operations in Oak Ridge.

The airport will leverage existing assets and strengthen the region’s manufacturing base, particularly in Tennessee’s automotive sector. A secondary goal is the diversification of the Oak Ridge and Roane County economies that will be negatively impacted by anticipated long-term reductions in federal employment that currently numbers approximately 12,000 jobs. Specifically, the design and construction of a new Oak Ridge Airport at the ETTP will support the objective of new manufacturing investment with high-growth potential in the emerging carbon fiber and alternative energy industries.

What’s the timeline? When will the airport officially open?

The City is working to transfer several parcels of land from CROET, DOE, and the private sector through the General Services Administration (GSA). The City’s contractor has received a notice to proceed on the Environmental Assessment. The goal is to have planes in the air in 2025.

Resources:


Project Contact:

Mark S. Watson

Oak Ridge City Manager

(865) 425-3550

mwatson@oakridgetn.gov

 

Media Contact:

Lauren Gray

Senior Communications Specialist

(865) 425-3576

lgray@oakridgetn.gov