The Telluride Regional Airport Authority recently was awarded a $6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, money that will go toward a spring 2017 project to reconstruct the aircraft parking apron and repair a drainage pipe.
The overall project cost for the work, scheduled to begin April 10 with a June 21 completion target, is $6.7 million. The specific FAA grant amount is $6.029 million. The airport will provide a 10 percent local match toward the project, but $250,000 of the match is being provided by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics.
Airport Manager Rich Nuttall, in announcing the grant award, said the airport would be closed during the 10-week project period. Four contractors submitted bids for the project, with Reams Construction Co. of Naturita submitting the lowest bid and winning the contract, he said.
“The project will start in April right after ski season closes,” Nuttall said Friday. “The reason (for closing the entire airport) is we are redoing the whole ramp, and we only have one taxiway entrance to the ramp, and that taxiway also is going to be partially rebuilt.”
By “ramp,” Nuttall is referring to the apron, where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refueled or boarded. The existing asphalt pavement that was constructed in 1993 will be removed and re-graded to bring it up to FAA airport design standards, Nuttall said. This will mean lowering the east end of the apron and raising the west end of the apron.
“Basically, we’re going to take dirt from the east side of the ramp and put it at the west side of the ramp, and make that balance,” he said.
As Nuttall mentioned, the project also will include reconstructing the taxiway that leads to the apron as well as widening the apron to align with the taxiway.
“During the construction project, the airport at its own expense will perform other asphalt maintenance, which will include crack-sealing and seal-coating the runway, taxiways and other portions of the aircraft parking areas that are not part of the construction project. All areas will then be re-striped,” Nuttall said in a news release last week.
He elaborated on the condition of the current apron in a phone interview Friday.
“It’s 23 years old now, and the asphalt’s deteriorating, a lot of cracks,” Nuttall said. “Normally you get about 20 years of life out of asphalt. We’re past that now.”
As for the upcoming winter tourism season and the return of commercial passenger service by Great Lakes Airlines on Dec. 17, the airport manager said the apron, taxiways and the airport in general are in solid condition to handle the increased traffic.
“It’ll be fine during the winter,” he said.
The grant application process started in May 2015. First, airport officials had to design the project, then submit it to the FAA for approval. The federal agency then indicated that the money for the project wouldn’t be available in 2016.
A grant application was resubmitted and then the FAA indicated the money would be available for the 2017 federal fiscal year, Nuttall said.
Last year, the airport began work on a new $7 million run-up/de-icing pad that also was funded by FAA and state grants, along with the airport’s contribution. That project, which did not require airport closure, was completed this year.
The run-up pad is the area where pilots stop the aircraft to check engines and await clearance for take-off. It puts the aircraft clear of the taxiway where other planes might be speeding up to take off.
“There were some minor things (the contractor) had to finish up on in 2016,” Nuttall said.
He added that terminal improvements to create more room for airport users might be coming next spring while the airport is closed.
Matt Skinner, COO of Colorado Flights Alliance, which works to secure commercial flights into the Telluride and Montrose airports, said the airport improvements make a positive difference.
“Rich has done a fantastic job securing available federal funds for airport improvements,” he said of Nuttall. “These grants have been, and continue to be, essential to the airport’s upkeep and continuing improvement, which in turn play a critical role in securing and maintaining air service.”