$25M airport apron project halfway done | VailDaily.com

$25M airport apron project halfway done

A three-year, $25 million project to replace the concrete apron at the Eagle County Regional Airport is halfway finished. The airport is operating at full capacity. The FAA and the Colorado Department of Transportation are picking up almost the entire tab, with the rest being paid by the airport's reserve funds.

EAGLE — A $25 million Eagle County Regional Airport project will not directly cost local taxpayers a dime.

The three-year project will replace the entire concrete apron — the place where jets are parked.

"Concrete and asphalt have a finite life, and the aprons are at the end of that lifespan," said Greg Phillips, airport manager.

Meanwhile, the airport is running at full capacity, Phillips said.

“(The airport) goes hand in hand with Vail Resorts and what this great community brings to it.”Greg PhillipsEagle County Regional Airport manager

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Who's paying

The Federal Aviation Administration is picking up 90 percent of the tab through its airport improvement program. That money comes from taxes on fuel and use fees, not from general taxes.

About 2.5 percent comes from the Colorado Department of Transportation's fuel excise taxes.

The remaining money, $1.2 million, comes from the Eagle County Regional Airport's reserve funds, generated by user fees and airline fees.

"There are no local taxes being spent for any of this," Phillips said.

The project was designed in 2011 and the first phase was completed in 2013. This summer is the third round and they'll finish next year, Phillips said.

One-billion dollar benefit

Before the Great Recession, the airport's economic impact was around $1 billion a year, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

In the years following 2008, the Colorado Department of Transportation put the annual economic impact at around $634 million.

Eight millionth passenger

The Eagle County Regional Airport welcomed its 8 millionth commercial passenger on March 29.

Commercial air service began at the airport in 1989 with a total of 277 passengers that entire year. In 2015, 320,111 passengers came through the facility.

About the airport

The Eagle County Regional Airport began as a plot of land purchased by Louise Ellen Cooley.

Barnstormers would land there to give rides and perform demonstrations. In the 1930s, airport supporter Harry A. Nottingham began his term as county commissioner and the concept of developing the airport gained momentum. In 1939, E.G. Berry, an engineer with Federal Aviation Administration's Denver Airports District Office, found the location for a new airport on Cooley Mesa to be ideal, filling the gap between Leadville and Grand Junction.

Around the same time, a county commissioner and a local resident borrowed equipment to create a proper road to the airstrip. That road project cost less than $20.

When the U.S. became involved in World War II, the Civil Aeronautics Authority acquired the additional airport property from the Herin Family. The Civil Aeronautics Authorityleveled the land and constructed a 300-foot-wide-by-3,000-foot-long emergency grass landing strip. This strip was used as an emergency landing facility for aircraft travelling to the West Coast across the central Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.