Leaders in Tuscaloosa broke ground on Phase 1 of the Tuscaloosa National Airport Runway reconstruction project Thursday, potentially paving the way for commercial air service in the future.

According to a city of Tuscaloosa spokesperson, the 50-year-old runway was last repaved in 1995 and has not been repaired since 2009. This project will remove all existing asphalt on the runway, create a soil-cement base and lay the new asphalt on top, making the airport's runway as good as new.

Construction on the project, which is partially funded by Mayor Walt Maddox's Elevate Tuscaloosa tax plan, is expected to officially begin Monday and is expected to conclude this fall.

Maddox joined other dignitaries, including the heads of the Take Off TCL movement, at the groundbreaking ceremony and expressed excitement about what this reconstruction could mean for future economic growth at the Tuscaloosa airport.

“Our work on the airport today is an investment in the future of Tuscaloosa,” Maddox said. “These improvements will allow our airport to support our industries, economic development, the needs of the University of Alabama, and many of the other projects we are investing in now to build an even brighter future for Tuscaloosa.”

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Dave Pass, the chairman of the Tuscaloosa National Airport advisory committee, also wielded a golden shovel at the groundbreaking and echoed Maddox's sentiments.

"What I'd like to see come from this is greater investment in Tuscaloosa that could benefit all of our citizens, whether its the creation of jobs through economic development opportunities---[or] inevitably the recruitment of commercial air service," Pass said. "I feel like this the first necessary investment in this airport that would help us seize the opportunities that we have in front of us for our city in the future."

Tripp Powell, who is chair of Takeoff TCL's efforts to bring commercial air service to the airport, also spoke with the Tuscaloosa Thread at the ceremony about his excitement for the economic growth in Tuscaloosa.

"I think [the Tuscaloosa airport runway redevelopment] is going to be a watershed moment of Tuscaloosa going forward. I think the prospect of the increases in cargo and passenger service are going to be ones that we look back and say, 'Man I'm sure glad we made that decision when we did,'" Powell added. "And I think it's going to take economic development here [in Tuscaloosa] to the next level both in wholesale, retail and tourism---And I'm just so excited."

For more information about the Tuscaloosa National Airport Runway project and future development, click here.