By Tracy Harmon
February 1, 2011
– Knowing that a successful airport can help drive an area’s economy, Fremont County commissioners are looking at ways to push forward with a runway expansion at the county’s small airport.
The proposed expansion has been on the Federal Aviation Administration’s five-year budget but the project keeps getting pushed back as other airport projects in the state have gone over budget, officials say. The rural airport’s limited air traffic also is a factor.
There still is no clear date inked for the runway expansion.
Under the expansion proposal, the airport runway, currently 5,900 feet long, would be extended in phases, first to 6,650 feet at an estimated cost of $4.5 million project and, eventually, to 7,000 feet at an estimated cost of $17 million.
“The FAA assures us that you are still on the list and they are talking about Fremont County,” said Dennis Corsi, of Armstrong Consultants Inc., who works with the county in applying for FAA grants for the airport.
To justify the $21.5 million investment, which has grown from a projected $13 million in 2009, the FAA gauges an airport’s traffic, Corsi said. “They want to see the bigger, faster planes coming in. But they don’t want too much of that traffic coming in until you upgrade, so it is a Catch-22,” Corsi said.
Going forward, county commissioners are thinking of starting the expansion’s preliminary work by asking for donated fill dirt or funding help from other sources. The initial expansion would require 1 million cubic yards of fill dirt.
The consultant “is thinking about approaching Colorado Aeronautics for some possible grant money to do the hauling if the county can find someone in the area with fill dirt that they might donate,” Fremont County Commissioner Ed Norden said.
If the county can get the dirt and help cut the overall cost of the project, it might make it look more attractive to the FAA. If not, there are other improvements that can be done to help pave the way for the expansion. A parallel taxiway will be needed and could cost about $2.7 million, so that might come first in 2013.
The second extension to 7,000 feet could be 5 to 20 years down the road, Corsi said. “Part of what will make the (second phase of the) project so expensive is there is no room to relocate Highway 67, so a tunnel will have to be built to move the highway underground.”
Source: Fremont County airport mulling upgrade options