JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Monday was a big day for Naval Air Station Jacksonville. After being closed for a year for renovations, the runway is now officially back open.
It was the first major renovation for NAS Jacksonville’s runway in half a century, and a special ceremony was held for the occasion.
Aircraft after aircraft took to the sky afterward from NAS Jacksonville once again.
For Navy officials overseeing the progress of the project, this has been a long-time coming.
"It's hard to imagine and hard to believe that we are here today," said Lt. Jamie Wallace.
Wallace spearheaded the $50 million construction project.
"Every construction project, every experience is unique," Wallace said.
According to Navy officials, the original runway had bad cracks and there were problems with water pooling during rainstorms. Several aircrafts were damaged as a result. The closure of the runway for the past year meant nearly 1,800 military personnel and nearly 40 aircraft were relocated to Cecil Airport.
"We moved over there just over a year ago. Didn't miss a beat. We did our mission and we are back here starting our missions again today," Capt. Howard Wanamaker said.
The new and improved runway comes with multiple upgrades, including an extra 1,000 feet added to the existing runway.
Other renovations include new taxiway signs, 1,200 new LED lights, and 70 football fields worth of new concrete and asphalt. Navy officials estimate 500,000 man hours went into the project's construction.
Wallace told News4Jax the project not only finished on time, but on budget.
But with any large scale project, she says there are challenges.
"Just staying committed to it. Not giving up," said Lt. Wallace. "You can explain the same thing to a group of folks, but each person will interpret it differently. It really is just about staying committed."
Naval Air Station Jacksonville says planes will be returning through Monday and Tuesday.