Cyclists and skaters take a spin on new Yampa Valley Regional Airport runway
Hayden — The nearly complete repaved runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport was given a test run Sunday by local bicyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers eager to take a spin on the freshly paved asphalt.
Though the opening of the airport to commercial flight traffic was delayed from a previous reopening of Sunday to June 25 instead, airport officials elected to keep the reopening party date the same.
The airport has been closed since April 14 to repave the 10,000-foot-long runway, adding 25-foot shoulders to each side, new lighting and a handful of other improvements to meet newer Federal Aviation Administration standards.
A scheduled reopening of June 14 was delayed after crews with general contractor United Co., based out of Grand Junction, lost 23 days of working time due to unexpected, heavy rains in May.
Rain saturated the ground that workers had just prepped for asphalt.
“It was just as we were starting to do all the earth work,” airport director Kevin Booth said.
Jviation, of Denver, is the engineering firm overseeing the $16.6 million project, which is being paid for primarily by the FAA, in addition to just under $2 million each from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Routt County.
The bulk of the project’s costs is the asphalt, Booth said.
Taking a drive down the nearly complete runway Sunday, Booth said he was looking forward to the first flights taking off and landing in less than two weeks.
“I can’t wait to talk to the first pilots that land, I think they’ll be really pleased,” Booth said. “It’s a very smooth surface, which is very critical for the speed airplanes come in at.”
More than 300 people had come to check out the new runway by 2 p.m. Sunday, many on road and mountain bikes, rollerblades and skateboards.
“It’s beautiful for skating,” said Brian Edwards, of Steamboat Springs, who took a few laps with his wife, Laurie, on rollerblades. “We’re always looking for newly paved stuff.”
Laurie Edwards said she enjoyed the smooth surface that was free from obstacles such as foot bridges.
“We skate the Core Trail a lot, so this is a nice change,” she said.
After five treks down the two-mile runway, 8-year-old Timmy Landers said he was pleased with the new surface.
“It’s really awesome. You can go really fast — it’s just two flat miles,” he said.
Before the runway opens to air traffic next week, workers must finish paving the last of seven taxying pathways and a small portion of the runway, finish installing the new lighting system, paint lines and informational markings on the pavement and ensure the gradient in unpaved areas of the property meets FAA standards.
Workers have been on-site seven days a week since near the start of the project, and on-site 24 hours per day during the past few weeks, Booth said.
Booth said he was confident the airport would meet its modified opening time of 4 p.m. June 25.
Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday the hiring of Dan Prenzlow as the new director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, according to a news release from CPW and Colorado Department of Natural Resources.