Airport expects new tracking equipment | SteamboatToday.com

Airport expects new tracking equipment

Mike Lawrence

If money keeps coming in, more airplanes will be able to land faster — and be diverted less often — at Western Slope airports such as Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

Routt County officials are securing $250,000 in funding for electronic airplane surveillance equipment that will allow planes to be tracked more accurately and consistently than with current radar systems.

“The project is all about making the air transportation system more efficient,” Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan said Thursday at a meeting in Steamboat Springs with commissioners from Routt and Moffat counties.

About two years ago, the aeronautics division of the Colorado Department of Trans-portation began a project to improve mountain airports, Sullivan said. The project calls for the new surveillance equipment that will be installed at airports across the Western Slope within three years if funding is approved.

“This is the first state in the lower 48 that this equipment is coming to,” Sullivan said. The equipment will use geometry to chart the location of planes — every “fraction of a second” — they are flying too low to be detected by radar in Denver.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the technology will increase airport safety and reduce the number of diverted planes, especially during bad weather, because of the increased tracking ability. The efficiency would shorten travel times and boost the local economy, Monger said.

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The cost to install the equipment at airports in Steamboat, Hayden, Craig and Rifle is $11.9 million, Sullivan said. The Federal Aviation Administration would pay for $5.1 million, and the state aeronautics division would pay for $6.3 million, leaving $500,000 for local governments.

Sullivan said Garfield Coun-ty, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Routt County each have pledged $50,000. Routt County commissioners approved the funds Tuesday. A $50,000 commitment will be requested from the city of Steamboat Springs on May 9, Sullivan said.

Routt County officials want to raise $50,000 from the combined efforts of of the town of Hayden, the city of Craig, Moffat County and community partners.

If $250,000 can be raised locally, the county will apply in August for a matching energy impact grant from the state Department of Local Affairs, Sullivan said.

Routt County commissioners took a step toward raising that money Thursday when Sullivan gave a presentation about the equipment to Moffat County commissioners. One commissioner said he needed more data.

“I could make a case for an energy grant with just about anything,” Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said. “Like me driving a new John Deere tractor to work. That would be safer and more efficient, too.”

“We’re not asking for a decision from you guys today,” Monger said. “We would definitely like to have Moffat County sign on.”

Moffat County Com-missioner Darryl Steele said the item will be on an upcoming agenda.

If funding and the project move forward, the equipment could be operational in early 2008, Sullivan said.