Airport Runway Extension Project to Get Underway Next Month
(Aspen, CO) Pitkin County this week received a $9.1 million Airport Improvement Program Grant from the FAA that will be added to the $1.6 million FAA grant the airport received in 2010 for the project. The $15.4 million Aspen/Pitkin County Airport runway extension will be funded with a combination of FAA, Colorado Division of Aeronautics and airport capital reserve funds. The airport operates as an enterprise fund of Pitkin County, and as such, no County general fund revenues or taxes are used to fund the airport’s operation or capital improvement, including the runway extension.
“This was the long anticipated good news we’ve been waiting for,” said Airport Director Jim Elwood. “We are very pleased about receiving this significant piece of project funding,” Elwood said.
Preliminary discussions about a runway extension in Aspen began in 1982 but approval for the project did not become a reality until after the first 20-year Airport Master Plan was completed in 2004. After numerous public input meetings, open houses and a detailed environmental assessment process the 1,000 foot extension was approved last June by Pitkin County Commissioners.
The 1,000 foot extension at the south (Aspen) end of the runway will allow aircraft to take off from the airport with additional passenger and fuel loads and fly to more distant destinations. Aircraft have historically operated at less than full capacity in Aspen, especially in summer when higher temperatures limit aircraft performance at the airport’s high elevation. The runway extension does not alter the airport’s existing 95’ wingspan or 100,000 pound landing weight limitations
“When the runway extension is completed this fall, the commercial airlines that operate out of our airport will be able to operate at higher capacities. This will not only make our airport more attractive to competing airlines it will make it possible for us to offer more direct flights and carry more passengers on existing aircraft,” Elwood said.
“We couldn’t have gotten to this point without the hard work of interested citizens, elected officials, airport staff and the FAA. We are extremely grateful for that effort,” Elwood said. Project construction will begin April 4th, and the runway extension is expected to be operational in November 2011, in time for the 2011/2012 ski season.