Rollin’ on the runway
PITKIN COUNTY Area residents embarked on bikes, blades, boards and just about anything that rolled Wednesday to celebrate the on-time reopening of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.The airport has been closed since April 9 for a $12 million runway resurfacing project, but the first flight is scheduled to arrive at 4 p.m. Thursday.Klaus Obermeyer yodeled his approval while lapping the mile of tarmac on his red-white-and-blue 10-speed, and many braved rain clouds for a chance to roll on the acres of fresh runway.”It was on time, on budget and on target,” said County Commissioner Dorothea Farris.
The two new airport restaurants won’t be complete until the end of June, and crews were still busy with tasks like seeding areas near the runway, officials said. But the first plane will land on schedule, depending on Thursday’s weather.And officials from Kiewit Western, the main contractor, stand to earn as much as $100,000 in bonuses for the on-time completion, according to Jim Elwood, director of aviation at the airport.”The key, I think, was the community’s patience and support,” said an elated Elwood, who said he recognized the impact of the airport closure on the community and was thankful for everyone’s patience.”The other key part is that we’ve been working on this for four years now,” Elwood said. And despite some difficult weather, diligent crews finished ahead of schedule, he said. “The result is a nicer, safer, better place than we had in April. And that’s because everybody pulled together and did a great job,” Elwood said, adding that the project started from the county commissioners’ bold decision on the two-month closure.After two months of a pressure-cooker deadline, Elwood said he’d be relieved when the planes start flying Thursday.”Today was really about the community,” Elwood said Wednesday.
Free-for-allCommissioner Michael Owsley invited everyone to “go crazy” on the new tarmac Wednesday: “This is going to be your last chance in the next 25 years to get out on that runway.””I just wanted to say I’ve been out there,” said Nick Byrne, who lives at North 40 just across from the airport. He rode his Razor scooter from one end of the runway to the other just to say he did it, he said.”It was cool,” said Melanie Doyle, 8, of Aspen, who joined her brother Jake, 4, on a no-training-wheels ride around the tarmac.
“They’ve been looking forward to this all day,” said their mom, Laurie, and the whole family was sure to get out at the 3 p.m. start to avoid the weather, she said.Bill Striegler of Snowmass Village was out on roller skates and said Wednesday was the chance to ride the runway without being arrested.”This is great – you don’t get to see the runway from this perspective,” Striegler said.”If jets can land on it, a bowling ball can do it,” said Penny Richey, who aimed for some neon pylons on the runway.Others flew kites, ripped some turns on longboards – and some kids rode electric-powered cars, one in the shape of a jet.Airport officials said crews will sweep the tarmac and terminal carefully before greeting the first flight, a private jet carrying Kiewit Western executives today. The first commercial carrier, a United flight from Denver, will land at 4:30 p.m.
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