Airport gets $6 million grant |

Airport gets $6 million grant

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Pitkin County has accepted nearly $6 million in aid from the Federal Aviation Administration in order to improve runway safety at the local airport.

County commissioners voted to accept the $5,952,673 grant Tuesday during a special meeting with Aspen-Pitkin County Airport officials. It’s likely one of the largest federal grants ever received by a small airport, noted airport director Jim Elwood.

“It’s infrequent that an airport of our size gets over $4 million,” Elwood said.

The grant will fund construction of a new airport taxiway, helping to separate it from the neighboring runway by 320 feet. This separation will lead to increased safety for aircraft on both the taxiway and runway, Elwood said.

The FAA usually requires 400 feet of space between taxiways and runways, but has compensated in Aspen by limiting aircraft wingspans to 95 feet, Elwood said.

The grant will also allow the airport to construct connecting taxiways between the main taxiway and runway.

The project is expected to cost nearly $6.6 million. The FAA grant – coupled with an additional $200,000 gift previously awarded to the airport by state aeronautics officials – will cover 90 percent of project costs, with additional bills covered by the airport, Elwood said.

However, since the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport does not rely on property or sales taxes, this latest improvement project will not be a burden to county residents.

“We’re self-sustaining – users pay for improvements,” Elwood said.

The FAA doesn’t use tax dollars to fund its grant projects, either, Elwood notes.

“These grant dollars that come from the federal government, that’s not your April 15 tax return dollars,” he said. Grants are created from the FAA’s aviation fund, which is fed by user fees levied on airline tickets, bills on air freight and aviation fuel taxes.

The county must relay its acceptance of the grant to the FAA before Sept. 10 in order to be eligible for the money, Elwood said. Documents will be forwarded to the federal agency before the end of the week.

Airport officials have already secured subcontractors for the runway renovation, Elwood said.

“We hope to get at least some of the work started this fall before the winter season sets in,” he said. Construction will break for the ski season, and resume early next spring.

“By this time next fall, we should complete this project,” Elwood said.

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