“This funding will help the Telluride Regional Airport in its goal of providing safe and efficient air service for the communities in and around San Miguel County,” Salazar said in a press release.
The grant will enable the airport to continue upgrading its runway and complete the widening of the runway safety areas, including the installation of Engineered Material Arresting System – or EMAS – at the end of each runway, and moving an existing taxiway out of the safety area.
“These safety improvements are vital to our airport and to the traveling public,” said Airport Manager Rich Nuttall, in a press release.
Unlike the last year’s Phase 2 project – a $23 million, seven-month phase of improvements that closed TEX between April and November while crews backfilled a notorious dip at the runway’s center that helped the nation’s highest commercial airport also earn its reputation as one of the country’s most challenging mountain airports, Phase 3 is unlikely to require more than a few weeks’ closure of the airport, if that.
The phase will finally upgrade the runway to a new D-III safety category, ultimately enabling it to accommodate larger aircraft than it can now, notably the Bombardier Q400 airplane, capable of carrying 76 passengers.
The ability bring more passenger traffic to TEX comes at a critical time, as the airport stands to lose $1 million in federal capital improvements funding in 2011 because the number of commercial passengers projected to depart from the airport this year may well fall below the 10,000 minimum needed to qualify for the federal funding.
But even after runway improvements are complete, the airport cannot begin accepting the larger aircraft until the Federal Aviation Administration develops new runway approach minimums, and the airport terminal will need to be enlarged to accommodate more passengers.
“Once those are done I feel confident that we’ll be on our way to seeing more success,” said Nuttall.
In the meantime, the airport held a pre-bid conference attended by 23 contractors interested in bidding on the project held earlier this week.
Bids will be opened on March 16,
“Stay tuned to March 16,” Nuttall said.