Reopening of Yampa Valley Regional Airport delayed to June 25 from June 15 | CraigDailyPress.com

Reopening of Yampa Valley Regional Airport delayed to June 25 from June 15

Tom Ross

Crews were making progress earlier this month on runway repaving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, but the cumulative effect of 4.19 inches of rain in May compared to the normal of 1.7 inches, led the airport director Monday to delay the re-opening date from June 15 to June 25.

— Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, serving Steamboat Springs and Craig, has been grounded by double the usual amount of May rainfall.

Airport Director Kevin Booth, citing rain delays, announced Monday afternoon that the reopening date for the runway has been moved back to June 25 from the scheduled June 15.

"The contractors (United Co.) have done everything humanly possible; they've held their crews as long as possible (at the job site each day), but since April we've lost 16 full days," from a 60-day construction schedule, Booth said.

The rain has effectively added 10 days to a $16.6 million construction project that had kept the airport closed since April 14.

Hayden normally gets 1.7 inches of precipitation for the entire month of May, according to the National Weather Service, but in 2015, rainfall last month totaled 4.19 inches.

All of the moisture has made it challenging to repave the 10,000-foot runway and even harder to construct the new 12.5-foot wide paved aprons that will run the full length of either side of the runway.

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Doug Monger, Routt County Board of County Commissioners chairman who also serves as chairman of the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, said the aprons were excavated and filled with compacted fill and gravel earlier in the construction project but became inundated with rainfall that turned the mix into soup.

"As all the rain came in, we lost compaction and had to tear it all out," Monger said. "We were really getting killed on the apron."

He was concerned enough about the status of the project that he made the short trip from his ranch on Morgan Bottoms to the airport each of the past four days of the month to observe the efforts of the construction crews.

"It seems like we got bum luck here," Monger said.

Booth said he contacted United Airlines operation official Ron Lance in Denver on Monday to inform him of the extended airport closure so he could inform passengers.

Booth said anticipated enplanements, or departing passengers, at the airport for June was 1,425 had the runway reopened as scheduled June 15. He's revised that to 675, based on a June 25 reopening, a decline of 750 emplacements.

A spot check of two United Express flights on 50-passenger jets that were scheduled to arrive here from Denver on June 19 and 20 showed they had 25 and 31 seats spoken for respectively.

Any loss in revenues from reduced passengers is a sensitive matter for Routt County, which was advised by a consultant last month it should expect another decade of austerity at the airport as it works its way back from declining passenger numbers counted on to drive revenues that pay for the airport's operation.

However, Monger was less concerned about any fiscal hit the airport takes this month than he was about how the extra 10 days would affect its contracts with United Co., the paver, and with its construction management firm, Jviation.

"We'll recover from (June losses)," Monger said. "Our concern is what does this mean to our contracts with United (Co.) and our engineers. We're hoping to build our reserves, not spend more," on the runway project.

The FAA is paying for $13.2 million of the overall cost; the Colorado Department of Transportation and Routt County are each committed to $1.9 million.

Records released by Routt County reflect that for the complete months of June 2013 and 2014 respectively, YVRA saw 2,617 and 2,852 arriving passengers.

Commercial aviation doesn't reflect the total number of aircraft operations lost to YVRA during the construction project. The airport is also busy with general aviation during the summer resort season.

The parking ramps at fixed base operator Atlantic Aviation are often crowded with private jets on big summer tourism weekends in Steamboat, however manager Pat Burke referred all questions to Booth.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

If you go:

What: Celebration of the upcoming June 25 reopening of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Free hot dogs and hamburgers. Bring a bicycle, inline skates and skateboards for a rare chance to ride down the two-mile-long newly resurfaced runway.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14

Where: Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Routt County Road 51, Hayden

Please R.S.V.P. to 970-276-5001 or tbuskirk@co.routt

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