Yampa Valley Regional Airport set to reopen Thursday after 70-day runway project
Steamboat Springs — There may be more than one private airplane vectoring in on Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden late Thursday afternoon when the 10,000-foot runway is set to reopen at 4 p.m. for the first time in 70 days after a repaving project that was to have lasted 60 days saw its timetable washed out by soggy May weather.
The contractors lost 16 full days and more than 20 in aggregate of the original schedule for the $16.6 million project. Even with the extra 10 days, they sometimes ran shifts around the clock to get the job done by June 25.
“Somebody wants to be first,” YVRA Director Kevin Booth told the Routt County commissioners Monday about the interest among pilots in the reopening of the airport. “We’re probably going to be real busy right at 4 p.m. We’ll be on our toes for that.”
The first commercial flights after the re-opening will include the inaugural direct jet flight of the summer on United Airlines from Houston; United flight 4542 is scheduled to arrive at 7:35 p.m. It will be followed by United flight 3432 from Denver, which isn’t due in until 10:53 p.m.
The runway is reopening late after record May rainfall not only delayed paving operations but caused the general contractor to tear out gravel used to build new 24-foot wide runway shoulders after it became too saturated with moisture to be compacted.
Hayden normally receives 1.7 inches of precipitation for the entire month of May, according to the National Weather Service. But in 2015, it totaled 4.19 inches.
The paving job is complete, Booth said Monday, and the giant asphalt plant operated by United Paving of Grand Junction has been hauled away to another Colorado airport job. The work of painting runway striping began June 20, he added.
The essential runway lights are in place, but electricians will be working right up to the airport re-opening and beyond. Booth explained that electricians will be able to install new lights on some taxiways after flight operations resume.
“We’ll be open with rolling closures of part of (a parallel taxiway), which will allow for 10 more days of electrical work” after the re-opening, Booth said.
The result of the ongoing electrical work is that at times pilots will need to turn their aircraft around on the runway and proceed to a taxiway that isn’t being worked on. Pilots will receive a “notice to airmen” (NOTAM) advising them of the circumstances.
“All of the work in the runway safety area is done except for one project we have to do at night,” Booth said.
Grooves must still be cut into the new asphalt to prevent ice build-up in winter. That work will take place between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The FAA is paying for $13.2 million of the overall cost of the runway project; 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, YVRA saw 2,617 and 2,852 arriving passengers respectively.