A 10-day runway repavement project the Durango-La Plata County Airport has had on its radar for the better part of a year is on schedule to begin next month. Airport officials are confident the project will finish on time, as well.
Tony Vicari, aviation director for DRO, said he wants to remind people that the airport’s runway will be completely closed from Sept. 7 to Sept. 16, but he expects regular operations to resume Sept. 17.
“The No. 1 question that we get right now, and very much rightfully so, is, ‘What is your confidence level that you’ll be back open on the 17th, the first day thereafter?’” Vicari said.
He said construction crews will work 24/7 to complete the runway repaving within the 10-day time frame..
During construction, the airport will be closed to all flight operations, ranging from commercial flights to emergency medical flights and aerial firefighting operations, he said. The repaving project will cost $12.7 million.
Runway maintenance is critical for airport safety and commerce, Vicari said.
“The runway is literally the lifeblood of the airport,” he said. “Sans runway, the airport ceases to be an airport.”
He said the airport has only one runway, “so we are 100% dependent on it to facilitate all of our fixed-wing air traffic at the airport.”
Landing activities with aircraft that can weigh up to 200,000 pounds take a heavy toll on runway pavement, he said. Even though DRO’s runway is currently in good condition, maintenance projects such as the one scheduled for September are necessary to continue long-term flight operations.
Vicari said the construction project is expected to extend the runway’s life span by another 10 to 15 years.
“Also, given the high speeds and critical safety factors of the aircraft operations, having a fully rehabbed and high-quality piece of asphalt pavement is not just a nicety but rather a necessity on that front,” he said.
Vicari told The Durango Herald in July that DRO carefully considered when to schedule the runway maintenance. Although the airport sees less traffic in April and November than during any other months of the year, weather conditions limit what kind of construction can be accomplished.
Peak wildfire season from May through July also makes airport officials wary about closing the runway when aerial fire operations might suddenly be needed.
So, the construction project was scheduled for right after Labor Day when flight traffic typically dips, he said.