A $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport is currently sitting unused due to a blind spot.
Completed in fall 2019, the Taxi Echo East project expanded the taxiway by roughly 366 metres – a solution for the current system, which requires pilots to taxi jets down the runway and complete a U-turn in order to position themselves for take-off.
Airport consultative committee meeting minutes from March 2019 detail how the taxiway extension, done in partnership with Canada’s air navigation service provider Nav Canada, was supposed to improve safety by removing access and departure points to the threshold of the runways.
The new design was also intended to improve utilization and fuel consumption for air carriers. Roughly 38,000 cubic metres of soil was removed and stockpiled during construction.
But the extension is located in a blind spot for the airport’s control tower, and therefore unusable.
Geoff Dickson, CEO of the Victoria International Airport Authority, said there was an indication that the control tower would be moved, but that hasn’t happened.
“At the time there was consideration with Nav Canada of relocating the control tower to the other side of the airport,” he said, adding possible solutions have been presented by both parties.
“There has been no resolution or agreement overall on that.”
In an email, Nav Canada said it continues to work with the Victoria airport on the taxiway project to “enhance operational efficiencies” but “given the shifting priorities of the pandemic this project is temporarily on hold.”
CCTV cameras have been discussed as a short-term solution, Dickson said. But costs haven’t been provided and forward momentum is on hold.
The airport industry has been decimated financially by the virus, he added.
“It’s really all about the pandemic,” Dickson said. “With completion in the fall, it would have been good to have full agreement on what a long-term or interim solution would look like.”
The Taxi Echo East project was completed after the airport announced a $19.4-million terminal expansion in February 2018. The 27-month plan included a departure lounge expansion, dedicated aircraft gates, covered walkways, new washrooms and additional space for retail and food services.