Airport Director Judd Hill reported on the progress of construction at Canyonlands Field Airport at a Feb. 6 presentation to the Grand County Council. The construction project, which broke ground in January, aims to expand the runway and remodel the airport terminal. The project also includes the development of a crosswind runway set at an angle to the primary runway. The crosswind runway will allow airplanes to land when wind direction and strength makes landing on the primary runway too risky.
SkyWest Airlines will begin running commercial flights on May 1. The Grand County Airport Board is planning a soft opening with a grand opening celebration tentatively scheduled for June 2.
Construction on the primary runway is a week ahead of schedule, Hill reported. The terminal is behind schedule after several challenges early on. One obstacle: a foundation had to be dug three feet deeper than expected due to the results of a soil test. The soil in that area could not be tested until construction began because it was located under a private garage, which was moved once construction began.
As construction proceeds, funding remains a challenge. The bids that the county received were more expensive than expected, and the contract for construction was approved with zero contingencies. That meant that as soon as several change orders came in, the project was over budget.
“We had to get it out to bid before we had a contract with an airline or before we had been federalized by the [Transportation Safety Administration] so we were taking our best guess on what needs they required ... we were 90 percent right,” Hill said. “We had a lot of people volunteering a lot of time from the airport board as well as staff working above and beyond but we just didn’t get everything perfect before it went out to bid. But we had to get it out in order to meet the really tight deadlines that we have for getting a completed building.”
In addition to the changes to the original design, the airport board will need more money for details that were not included in the contract. These include door locks, signage, seating and security cameras. These costs, Hill explained, would have been more expensive if they were included in the airport construction contract. It is cheaper for Grand County to buy them directly.
“How do we approach 100 people who don’t work for Grand County having keys to a Grand County building? So that’s where keypad door locks make it easier. Especially if someone separates and we don’t get it back, do we charge an individual employee a $5,000 deposit on a key? You can’t really do that,” Hill said.
Another cost will be additional parking spaces.
“We don’t have enough parking for this airport, period ... we’re going to need double what we have in the next three months,” Hill said.
Hill said he is looking for funding from every possible source. The airport will also seek to maximize the revenue it generates through advertising and a new fee for overnight parking ($3 per night). In his presentation to the council, Hill noted that parking is the main source of revenue for airports around the country.
The airport board is working on prioritizing additional infrastructure needs and coming up with hard numbers for the costs. Hill plans to present those numbers at the Feb. 20 meeting of the Grand County Council.