Friday, September 6, 2013

Airport announces runway closures

Two 25-day shut-downs will permit construction work

Express Staff Writer

    The Friedman Memorial Airport runway will be closed for 25 days next spring and again in spring 2015 to allow construction work to be carried out to meet federal safety standards.
    SkyWest spokeswoman Marissa Snow said the airline had not yet decided what to do with its flights between Sun Valley and Salt Lake City during those periods. She said the spring schedule will not be finalized until January.
    Alaska Airlines flights to Seattle and Los Angeles as well as the newly established United Express flights to San Francisco are not scheduled to fly in the spring and should not be affected by the closures.
    The work comprises Phase II of a multi-phase project that will need to be completed by the end of 2015 to meet congressionally mandated standards for aircraft ground operations.
    The main work in Phase II will be to move the taxiway on the west side of the runway 70 feet farther west to create more separation between planes using the runway and those on the taxiway. The airport’s east-side taxiway will be demolished since the presence of state Highway 75 precludes its relocation to the east. Numerous airport facilities will need to be moved to create space for the relocated west-side taxiway.
    Proceeding with the Phase II portion of the project, including tentative closure dates of April 28 through May 22, was approved by the Airport Authority board Tuesday.
    Airport Manager Rick Baird said he had consulted with local businesses and the consensus was that May was their slowest month.
    “There’s never a good time to close the airport, but this is about as good a time as there is,” Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach said in an interview. “During that time period, most of our business is regional, and people drive here, so we don’t think it will have a big effect on our business. We’re excited that the airport’s making improvements.”
    Work scheduled for spring 2014 includes moving the south half of the west taxiway to the west and extending it farther to the south. Now, only the east taxiway reaches the south end of the runway. Work planned for that time also includes demolishing the east taxiway and relocating a cross taxiway that connects the runway with the west taxiway.
    Work planned to begin in fall 2014 and extending into spring 2015 includes terminal expansion and relocation of hangars. Moving the northern half of the west taxiway is also planned for spring 2015.
    The entire project is scheduled to be completed by July 2015.
    Funding for the project beyond Phase I, which will be done this fall and next spring, has not been secured. However, it is expected to be funded 93.75 percent by Airport Improvement Program grants administered by the Federal Aviation Administration and 6.25 percent by the airport. The airport’s website states that those grants could total more than $25 million.
    Airport Authority attorney Barry Luboviski said the FAA has expressed a willingness to provide the money needed to carry out the federally mandated improvements.
    “As long as Congress funds the FAA, we’ll be fine,” he said. “The funding is not a concern.”
    The work further solidifies the future of the airport in Hailey. Efforts to relocate the airport to a site in southern Blaine County stalled in 2011 because of environmental concerns and questions about soaring construction-cost estimates.

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