Aspen airport secures another $1.9M for projects
October 23, 2011
ASPEN – Pitkin County took a shot at positioning the Aspen airport to receive additional federal funding, and the gambit paid off to the tune of nearly $2 million.
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport officials brought an emergency resolution before county commissioners in August to accept up to an additional $5 million in Federal Aviation Administration grant funds just in case the agency wound up with unspent dollars. The resolution received final approval in mid-September.
Aviation Director Jim Elwood termed the chances of getting additional Airport Improvement Program funding as slight, but the FAA has allocated an additional $1.9 million to the local airport.
“Our decision to submit an application to the FAA was a good one,” Elwood said via email on Saturday.
The money will go first toward the design and construction of a connector between the runway and the main taxiway that parallels the runway on the east side. It was removed in 2005 during an earlier project, but wasn’t reinstalled because of federal funding limitations. Air traffic controllers and pilots have advocated reinstalling the connector at that location since then, according to Elwood.
Seven connector taxiways currently exist between the runway and main taxiway; the ongoing runway extension project will add two more. The connector that was lost (it would be the 10th) will cost an estimated $941,731 to reinstall. Construction is expected in 2012.
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The remaining federal funds will go toward design work to relocate the airport’s aircraft deicing operations and relieve a point of congestion during the winter months. The improvement would also eliminate the tracking of deicing fluid into the terminal and onto aircraft. Hopefully, an additional grant will be coming to complete the $2.6 million project, Elwood said. If no more funding is provided, the airport will hold on to the designs until there is money to finish it.
The airport outlined a third, $1.6 million subsurface drainage project west of the runway in its bid for additional FAA funding. It was to be part of a 2007 runway rehabilitation project, but lacked federal funding at the time.
The FAA grant will pay 95 percent of project costs with the $1.9 million; the airport will provide $100,126 from its reserve fund.
The airport already had all of the projects in its future capital plans, enabling it to capitalize on the FAA’s situation. Congress allowed most of the agency’s functions to shut down in July, and has kept the FAA going with short-term extensions – now through January. As a result, projects at other airports saw delays and ran out of time to get under way, according to Elwood.
The airport’s runway extension project is also funded primarily with FAA money; the grant was secured before the agency’s own tenuous funding situation began to impact projects around the country.
Both FAA grant funds and airport revenues are derived from aviation-related fees. The Aspen airport operates as an “enterprise fund” within Pitkin County’s budget, receiving no tax support.