Runway expansion will slow traffic |

Runway expansion will slow traffic

Kathy Heicher
Kathy Heicher/Enterprise

GYPSUM – It takes a lot of dirt to create a 1,000-foot extension to the east runway at the Eagle County Airport – 2.5 million cubic yards of dirt, to be exact. And all of it has to be hauled across Cooley Mesa Road, which is only way to get to the Eagle County Airport and the Buckhorn Valley subdivision. It’s also a main link between Eagle and Gypsum. Think big trucks and traffic jams. Eagle County officials have a plan meant to keep traffic moving during what promises to be two summers of heavy construction. A “haul road crossing” – with a temporary traffic light – will be built east of the intersection of Cooley Mesa and Navajo roads. Drive should plan on up to five minute delays, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Saturday during the construction season.

“People accessing the airport need to plan on a few minutes of waiting at the crossing,” said Justin Finestone, Eagle County communications director.The county has to move the dirt from the south side of Cooley Mesa Road over to the airport. The haul road, 50 to 70 feet wide, is located on the abandoned roadbed of the old Cooley Mesa Road.Earth-moving equipment, including scrapers, water wagons, blades, tractors and pickups will use the road.Four temporary traffic lights will be located at the intersection of the haul road and Cooley Mesa Road. A light operator will ensure the Cooley Mesa Road traffic is not stopped for an longer than five minutes, said Phillip Bowden of the County Engineering Department.The runway expansion project will involve two summers of earth moving, and one summer of paving, Bowden said.Chris Anderson, the airport’s administration manager, said safety is the main reason for the $28 million runway expansion, which is being mostly paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“It will give airplanes more roll-out on the runway to gain more altitude,” Anderson said. The longer runway will enable planes to carry more passengers and cargo.

Air traffic approaching the Eagle County Airport will shift a bit to the north once the new “instrument landing system” is installed at the airport. Work on that system is scheduled to start in June.Airplanes that tend to fly in over Eagle Ranch will come in over the Bluffs when the system is installed.”It’s not a huge change,” Anderson said.County officials have been working for years to get an instrument landing system, which will help pilots navigate in foul weather when visibility is poor. A radar system also will be built to enable air traffic controllers to see aircraft as blips on a screen and keep approaching planes a safe distance apart. “The radar will increase capacity. That means more airplanes on the ground,” Anderson said.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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