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Airport tower gets boost in funds

Veronica Whitney

Eagle County regional Airport has received another grant to help pay for its new control tower.

Gov. Bill Owens announced recently that Eagle County has been awarded a $210,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division for improvements at Eagle County Regional Airport.

This new grant adds to another Department of Transportation grant for $200,000 received last year. The agency has now contributed a total of $410,000 towards the new $2.2 million air traffic control tower.



“We’re very happy. We’ve been hoping for this for some time, but it wasn’t certain,” said Becky Gadell, Eagle County assistant administrator.

Ovid Seifers, operations manager at the Eagle County Regional Airport said the new tower should be operating Thanksgiving week.



“Today, they’re installing the air traffic control equipment,” Seifers said. “The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to approve the tower.”

The new 115-foot control tower, that will replace the existing 43-foot tower, puts air traffic controllers in a higher location, increasing visibility. The tower, part of the county’s efforts to enhance the airport’s navigation system, will also more flights in and out of Eagle County.

“When we receive the grant requests, we look at the whole statewide system of airports and Eagle County Regional Airport is an important airport in the state,” said Bob Lohne, senior aviation planner for the Department of Transportation’s Aeronautic Division.



Forty two grants were approved by the agency, totalling $2.5 million. There are 79 public-used airports in Colorado. Most of the grants were made to assist airport sponsors in meeting local matching-fund requirements for federal projects.

Other mountain airports that received grant include: Aspen’s Sardy Field, Telluride Municipal Airport and Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional.

“Because of these grants, critical airport maintenance and safety projects will be able to move forward,” Owens said. “Without this partnership between the state and local airports, many of these projects would be on the back burner, perhaps not starting for years. The state grants allow local airports to obtain federal matching funds which otherwise would flow to other states,”

Final grant approval decisions were made by the seven-member Colorado Aeronautical Board, which over the past decade has awarded nearly 400 grants totaling nearly $25 million to general aviation airports in the state. Funding for the grants, which are solely for aviation purposes, comes from aviation-fuel tax revenues.

“Despite the economic downturn, activity in general aviation seems to be increasing,” said Aeronautical Board Chair Harold Patton. “These grant funds are a constant and ongoing fiscal resource for improving, maintaining and creating better safety and service at Colorado’s 78 public-use airports.”

Travis Vallin, Aeronautics Division Director, said the grant funds are a catalyst used by public airports to bring in millions of dollars in federal project funds.

“That’s not only good for our airports, but it’s very good for the local communities that depend on the airports for safe aviation operations, economic development and access to emergency services,” Vallin said.

This winter, U.S. Customs will also begin full operation at the Vail Valley Jet Center, next to the airport.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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