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Renton Airport to get new blast fence next to Airport Way

The wooden jet wall, or blast fence, which has protected pedestrians and vehicles on Airport Way from the jet wash of 737s taking off, will be replaced with a new modern structure made of metal that through artistry will evoke the long aerospace history of Renton. - Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter
The wooden jet wall, or blast fence, which has protected pedestrians and vehicles on Airport Way from the jet wash of 737s taking off, will be replaced with a new modern structure made of metal that through artistry will evoke the long aerospace history of Renton.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

It’s the end of the road for the iconic red and white checkered jet wall at the south end of the Renton Municipal Airport, as plans are moving forward to replace the aging structure with a new one.

According to Deputy Public Works Director Doug Jacobson, the present wooden structure is beginning to rot and a more modern structure needs to be built.

“The existing blast fence is made of wood, it’s in excess of 50 years old and is losing it’s structural integrity,” he said.

Bids go out this month and beginning in mid-May the current wall will come down in favor of a newer metal version, like the one that runs along the southern side of North Sixth Street.

The new wall will be longer east-to-west than the current structure, but will be two-thirds the height. According to Jacobson, the current wall was built to protect cars from the jet wash of a Boeing 727, which included an engine higher up on the tail.

“Now, the 737 engine is slung low below the wings,” he said.

The reduced height will also make it easier for smaller planes to land.

But with the new construction will come a new look at the airport and the familiar pattern of red and white squares is on its way out.

Instead, the city has commissioned artist Ben Jepson, who designed the statue that sits at the airport’s entrance, to create a new piece for the part of the wall facing Airport Way.

“We tried to get some continuity for that,” said Airport Capital Projects Coordinator Ben Dahle.

The new wall will feature metal panels etched with the depiction of three Boeing airplanes historically built in Renton and used at the airport: a 737, a 707 and a depiction of a B-1 seaplane.

According to Dahle, the B-1 seaplane was used by pilot Edward Hubbard to shuttle mail between Seattle and Victoria, B.C.

The new wall will feature red and white markings across the top and will also be “dynamic,” according to Dahle. The plan is for the wall to include pieces of aluminum that will shimmer when hit by wind or by the blast of a jet.

In addition, the center of the wall will be reddish in color, fading to a cool blue at the ends to represent the effects of a jet engine hitting it.

The total cost of the project is estimated at about $1.15 million, with 90 percent of the funding coming from a Federal Aviation Administration grant. The FAA grant does not include the artwork or landscaping, so Jacobson estimated the city’s share of the cost to be between $200,000 and $250,000 when all is said and done.

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