County envisions major airport expansion project
KREMMLING — Change is in the air for the Kremmling airport as county officials look towards a future potential airport expansion project amidst current plans to resurface the airport’s runway next year.
Grand County is home to two separate public airports; one in Granby and one in Kremmling. Kremmling’s airport, McElroy Field, is the larger of the two facilities and can accommodate larger aircraft than its counterpart further east. Discussion about a potential expansion of McElroy Field has been in the public sphere since at least 2008 when the then serving County Commissioners adopted a zoning ordinance that would be required for any future expansion of the airport.
County officials are currently moving forward with the long-term planning process to potentially extend the runway at McElroy Field. While no final decision has been made regarding whether or not an expansion project will become a reality, if it does county officials would anticipate the project being completed by the later half of the next decade. The project would look to extend the existing runway at McElroy Field by over 1,000 feet in length while adding an additional 25 feet of width to the tarmac.
“The Kremmling Aiport runway extension has been planned for many years, and I am thrilled that we have decided to move forward ont his project after a recent meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration,” Kris Manguso, Grand County Commissioner, stated. “This is a long term plan that will eventually allow for air traffic to increase at the Kremmling Airport, and I am confident it will result in many economic benefits countywide.”
Manguso noted that the county’s costs on the project would only be five percent of the overall total cost of the project with five additional percent coming from the state of Colorado and 90 percent coming from the FAA.
McElroy Field is currently designated as a B-II airport under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, meaning the airport can accommodate plans with a wingspan of 49 to 78 feet with approach speeds of 91 to 120 knots. If the proposed expansion project does become a reality the airport will be designated as a C-II airport, which will allow McElroy Field to accommodate planes with faster approach speeds, in the 121 to 140 knot range.
Grand County Assistant Manager Ed Moyer laid out the series of events that will unfold over the next several years as county officials move towards the eventual goal of airport expansion.
“In 2020 we will be applying for a grant to pudate our master plan at Kremmling’s airport,” Moyer said. “Basically that looks at a lot of detailed aviation issues such as required runway safety areas, obstacle free zones, protection zones, visibility zones. It’s deep.”
Moyer noted that a key component of the proposed runway extension would be the required relocation of US Highway 40, which currently runs alongside the eastern edge of the existing airport property. The issue was discussed in a meeting county officials had with representatives of the FAA, the local Airport Board and consultants from Armstrong Consulting in late October last year.
“The airport is constrained on the west end with the County Fair Grounds and a cemetery,” states the meeting notes. “The east end has State Highway 40 constraining expansion as well as a steep drop off. The highway will need to be relocated and the drop off will need to be filled to provide required safety area for the extension.”
Moyer called any project that would require a highway relocation a “big process” involving numerous steps and phases. After hopefully completing an update of the airport master plan in 2020, along with a resurfacing project on the existing runway itself, officials would then look to begin the lengthy environmental assessment processes that the expansion would require in 2021. Moyer noted that the project could potentially require three separate environmental assessments, one for the FAA related to the extension itself, one for Colorado’s Department of Transportation related to the highway relocation work, and one for the Bureau of Land Management.
Any plans to relocate portions of Highway 40 would necessarily require the acquisition of additional land, east of the current highway, to provide space for the highway’s relocation. According to Moyer most of the land the county would look to use for highway relocation is currently owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
“It will be very important for us to coordinate these efforts to minimize costs,” Moyer said. “But in all honesty we don’t know what that looks like until we get to 2021 and start the first environmental assessments.”
Following environmental assessment work in 2021 Moyer said the most likely next step would be the acquisition of the land required for the highway relocation. Moyer cautioned that the costs of land acquisition were also very large unknown factors at this stage in the process. Starting in 2023 the county would look to finalize designs elements on the project and related highway relocation. In 2024 Moyer said the county would hope to tackle the actual highway relocation work that would be followed finally by the runway extension.
“Does it make sense to do it all a once?” Moyer asked rhetorically. “Does it make more sense to extend the runway in 100 foot increments? We have to look at a cost benefit analysis to determine what is best.”
Moyer cautioned that cost estimates on the project were very rough but estimated the total cost of the runway extension at approximately $35 million with an additional $15 million, roughly, being needed for the highway relocation. Moyer noted that those estimates do not include costs for the environmental assessment work and land acquisition for the highway relocation.
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