Extension may never take off

City staff: No plans to extend runway in near future; report tells different story

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City officials continue to say they have no intention of extending the runway at the Steamboat Springs Airport any time soon, but a September report indicates otherwise.

The purchase of land around Routt County Road 44, the realignment of that road and the extension of the airport's one runway are budgeted in a six-year capital improvement plan.

The plan was part of the airport's 10-Year Forecast Update, which Airport Manager Matt Grow completed in September but now calls "unrealistic."

Grow said that since the last extension was completed in the early 1980s, another extension has been planned.

"It has always been an item in the master plan, just not anytime soon. I am talking 20 years from now," Grow said.

In the plan, the $55,000 purchase of land near C.R. 44 is scheduled for 2007, and the $175,000 cost of realigning the road is budgeted for 2008. The road would have to be moved to accommodate the 548-foot runway extension.

Under the heading "Year 2010 and beyond by priority," $2 million for extending the runway is the second of three listed items. Constructing a parallel taxiway, at a cost of $4 million, is ranked before it.

The acquisition and realignment of C.R. 44 and the runway extension were not included in a five-year capital improvement plan given to the City Council last fall.

Grow said the numbers and dates listed in the 10-Year Forecast Update are unrealistic.

"It was an in-house document, we are not following through with it," Grow said and noted his first priority for 2010 is building a parallel taxiway.

The issue of the runway extension arose last month when landowner Walter Scott asked the city to look at updating its long-term plan for the airport as it moved toward updating the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan.

Scott, who owns land adjacent to the airport, thought a $16 million runway-expansion project stipulated in that long-term plan, the 1998 Airport Layout Plan, was outdated and a waste of taxpayers' dollars.

The plan called for extending the 4,452-foot runway by 548 feet and relocating C.R. 44. The extension would be paid for largely through a Federal Aviation Administration grant, but the city would be required to provide $1.1 million.

On March 4, city staff said the runway extension most likely would never happen and that it was not budgeted on any capital improvement plans.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the planes the runway extension was targeted for rarely are used in North America.

"I think when the city made the decision to give up commercial planes and stay with general aviation, it also decided the current runways were sufficient for the planes that want to fly in here," Hughes said.

The runway expansion was not a high enough priority to put in the long-term capital improvement plan, city officials said at that time. And Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said last week the extension would never happen without an FAA grant, which requires a 10 percent match from the city.

"The (expansion) is not likely. It is not likely it would ever happen," DuBord said.

City Councilman Ken Brenner brought up the September report and the discrepancies between it and staff comments during Tuesday's council meeting.

At that meeting, Councilwoman Kathy Connell, who is the city's representative on the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, suggested the commission be given responsibility for reviewing the Airport Layout Plan.

On Thursday, the Airport Commission met and discussed updating the Airport Layout Plan, but the group did not talk about the runway expansion, Chairman Marty Kolonel said. The board decided to recommend not updating the plan until 2009, when the FAA would share heavily in the costs.

"The cost of doing it early would be significant to the city," Kolonel said.

Brenner said he has talked with the Routt County Regional Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners about reviewing the Airport Layout Plan when the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan is reviewed. That recommendation could be formalized in the area plan update, Brenner said.

"That is the right place to put the language in to address (Scott's) letter," Brenner said.

The area around the airport has been targeted as a growth area for Steamboat, but Brenner said future homeowners under the flight-pattern zone might have to sign waivers about sound mitigation and airport discharge.

Scott indicated about 45 percent of the land in the West of Steamboat plan is under the flight-pattern zone designated for propeller aircraft. If the flight zone were expanded to include jet aircraft, which are increasingly used, about 86 percent of the land would be under a flight-pattern zone, Scott said.

Scott, who has been looking to develop his land for years, said part of the reason so little has been done in the West of Steamboat area is the restrictions placed on landowners by the airport waivers.

Any landowners wanting to develop within the flight-pattern zone must have their projects approved by the city, airport and FAA, Scott said.

"If anybody is going to do anything out there, they have to go through glacier time frames," Scott said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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