AUGUSTA — The main runway at Augusta State Airport could soon close for repair, meaning no commercial flights in or out of Augusta for up to two months.

The closure is for a $7.5 million federally mandated safety improvement project that will reconstruct the main runway and add safety features to both ends to prevent out-of-control aircraft from overshooting the runway.

The work will require the entire, 5,100-foot main runway to be shut down for 45 to 60 days, currently projected as May 16 to July 13. During that period, no Cape Air or other commercial flights, or flights requiring more than 2,700 feet of runway space, would be able to fly to or from Augusta.

Private planes will still be able to fly out of Augusta throughout the project using the airport’s alternate, 2,700-foot runway, Airport Manager John Guimond said.

“It’s a total reconstruction of the runway,” Guimond said. “It’s 40 to 50 years old. It’s time. It will be a huge improvement. We’re having record passenger numbers since Cape Air started, and they’re going up to four flights a day. With those numbers increasing every month, this is the perfect time to do this kind of safety improvement project.”

Guimond said Cape Air will still be able to fly while work on the ends of the main runway is under way, as there will still be more than 3,400 feet of runway available, but not for the 45 to 60 days the entire runway will be shut down. Guimond said Cape Air needs about 3,200 feet for its planes to take off.

Cape Air officials plan to suggest passengers in the Augusta area fly with Cape out of Rockland, where the small airline also flies Maine passengers to and from Boston.

“Our goal is going to be to minimize the inconvenience to passengers, so we’re thrilled to be able to have continuing flights out of Rockland in the interim,” said Leslie Myrbeck, director of community relations for Cape Air. “We hope, in the short term, folks would be willing to travel out of Rockland.”

Guimond said they hope to start work in early May but, for now, are still waiting to hear whether the grant funding for the project comes through from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Guimond said Augusta’s project is rated second on a priority list of airport projects to be federally funded in the Northeast, behind only a $22 million project in Boston.

He said he hopes to hear whether it is funded within a couple of weeks.

Guimond said work on the main runway will be paused from July 13 to Aug. 1, to open it back up to allow for the expected annual influx of private and chartered jets at the airport, delivering affluent parents to Augusta to visit their children at area summer camps.

The so-called “camp weekend” time period sees major jet traffic at the airport, with, in the past, more than 70 jets flying in on peak weekends.

“We plan on having the whole runway open for that. It’s such a huge revenue source for the area,” Guimond said. “For caterers, restaurants, for Maine Instrument Flight, for Hertz and Enterprise, we heard, clearly, for that time period, business is phenomenal.”

After Aug. 1, the main runway will return back to its 3,400 feet, allowing Cape to continue service for the duration of the project, which Guimond said is expected to take until mid-October.

Guimond said 95 percent of the project will be paid for with federal grant funds, with the remaining 5 percent coming from the state, which owns the city-run airport.

The project has already received $2.6 million in federal grants.

Three firms submitted bids to perform the runway reconstruction, with Pike Industries the lowest, at $4.6 million.

City Councilor Edward Coffin, a member of the airport’s advisory committee, said officials had estimated reconstructing the runway would cost up to $6.4 million.

The safety improvements include the installation of an aircraft arrestor system at both ends of the runway made of crushable concrete blocks of various sizes. The blocks collapse if a plane passes over them, stopping the aircraft before it gets to the end of the runway.

Rolling off the end of the main runway in Augusta could result in a plane ending up plunging toward Western Avenue on one end, or down a nearly 300-foot banking into woods or Interstate 95, on the other.

The airport already purchased the necessary crushable blocks — 2,070 of them — at a cost of $2.6 million. They will be arrayed in 150-by-200-foot sections at the very ends of the main runway.

Guimond said this will be the first use of such a system in Maine. Using it will fulfill a requirement that airports receiving federal funding have safety zones on the ends of runways.

Without it, the airport could have been required to expand its runway runoff areas by 600 feet.

“We have 40 feet on one end, and 60 to 70 feet on the other,” Guimond said of the airport’s current runoff space.

Cape Air has only been flying out of Augusta since December, but Guimond said the airline is setting new passenger-count benchmarks already.

That includes 387 passengers in March, Guimond said, compared to 187 passengers flown by former Augusta commercial carrier Colgan Air last March.

Myrbeck, who was in Augusta for a business reception Thursday at the Senator Inn, said, “We’ve had a very strong beginning in Augusta.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]