Garfield County Airport to reopen in November |

Garfield County Airport to reopen in November

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentB.J. DeHerrera of New Castle and a companion check out the newly renovated runway at the Garfield County Airport last Saturday.

RIFLE, Colo. – Renovations are nearly complete at the Garfield County Airport. And to celebrate the end of the two-year-old construction project and to ring in the newly renovated runway, airport administration invited the public to come check out the new 100-foot wide, and 7,000-foot long runway last weekend.

“We had more [people attend] than anticipated,” said Airport Manager Brian Condie. He estimated that between 700 and 800 people came out for an open house.

“We planned for about 500 people,” he said.

The airport is scheduled to reopen for air traffic on Nov. 18. As of Monday, Oct. 25, renovations were 97 percent complete Condie said. He expects the remaining items to be done well before opening day.

Renovations included realignment and leveling of the runway to allow for safer takeoffs and landings. The runway alignment was pivoted slightly, alleviating an obstructing mountain which forced planes to bank left after takeoff. The new runway follows the natural contours of the valley to provide a straight shot for aircraft coming in or departing.

Other improvements included expanding the safety area around the runway from 300 feet to 1,000 feet, new aircraft instrument approaches from the east and west, and a reduction of the slope of the runway by lowering the east end approximately 7 feet and raising the west end approximately 14 feet. Leveling the runway has reduced the slope to less than one percent across the 7,000 foot length.

The main reason for the renovations was to address safety concerns, Condie said.

In the past, the airport has had an average of 2.5 jet aircraft accidents per year, according to Condie. But with the new runway, “that should go down,” he said.

Condie noted that none of the accidents have resulted in injuries, only causing aircraft damage. But, the new instruments and runway are expected to reduce the number of those incidents.

The airport handles roughly 20,000 aircraft operations annually – approximately 10,000 takeoffs and 10,000 landings each year.

The renovations are expected to bring in an additional 400 jets per year, which will increase revenues for the airport and the county, as well. The airport will now accommodate larger planes, up to a Boeing 737, Condie said.

Overall, Condie said the project went relatively smoothly.

“We had small hiccups and a couple of major ones,” he said. “But overall, we were able to stay on schedule.”

The entire project cost $47.3 million to complete: $39.8 million in federal funding paid for airport runway renovations and another $7.5 million from Garfield County paid for water and sanitary sewer system upgrades, the three-inch overlay on the ramp and parking lot, perimeter roads, an upgraded response vehicle and backup generator for the airfield, and fuel tank renovation.

The airport runway has been closed since April 5.

“We are just excited to get it opened and get the aircraft back in here,” Condie said.

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