Construction has begun on Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport's new super-taxiway.

The groundbreaking Monday is the first phase of the project, Kelly Braun, airport manager, explained.

"That super-taxiway will serve as our runway for a couple of years while we rebuilt the main runway," Braun said. "Today is the first day in the dirt."

A new runway is needed.The new 100-seat aircraft, replacing the 50-seat regional jets, are larger, and the airport's runways do not meet the requirements to be able to handle those aircraft.

The contractor for the total $64 million project is Dickinson-based Martin Construction.

Getting to the first phase of creating a new runway for Dickinson took years of planning.

"It's been a long journey, for sure," Braun said. "In the planning process, the master plan took a huge effort, everything that went along with it to get to today."

There will be as little disruption as possible to daily operations, Braun said.

"During the key transitions from the old runway to the new super-taxiway, there may be a day or more of runway closures," Braun said, "just to remove paint or get it painted so it looks like a runway and not a taxiway."

On a windy and warm spring day, crews began removing top soil in long strips.

"They'll pull all that topsoil off and stockpile it," Braun said. "They'll used that reclaimed topsoil when they do the final grade and plant everything back to grass."

Braun applauded the efforts of the airport's board and its members.

"Our chairman, Jon Frantsvog, has worked tirelessly to see this come to fruition," he said. "It's been a fantastic thing to be a part of."

Frantsvog called the start of construction "a wonderful thing."

"We've been working with the (FAA) for probably close to eight years now doing the planning for this," he said. "The level of detail we had to go through was astounding to me. We feel we have turned over every rock and uncovered every kind of potential issue."

With the project, the airport should have its needs met for the next 30 years, Frantsvog said.

"Unless something remarkable occurs and we have to start bringing in 787s or something, but for the foreseeable growth for our community, this is going to serve us very well," he said.

Frantsvog is glad to see the project moving ahead.

"Planning can be tiresome work and sometimes it's difficult to see if you're making progress," he said. "It is exciting to be at this point."

For Braun, seeing the start of construction was personally exciting.

The start of the project brings his more than 20-year career full circle.

"When I started off in airports as a very young man it was in Denver, Colo., and I was running heavy equipment as we built (Denver International Airport)," he said. "Here I am, back home, and constructing a new runway."

He added, "It's really exciting for me personally to be part of this and see it take place."

Braun expects work on the super-taxiway to continue through November.

"We'll finish it up at the end of next year," he said. "We'll do the second half."