September 1, 2022
(Photo by Crystal Ashike | KSUT)

Durango-La Plata County Airport Closure

Starting next week the Durango-La Plata Airport is closing to all travel for necessary repairs.

By Sarah Flower


Sarah Flower:

The 10-day closure at Durango La Plata County Airport is on track to start just after the Labor Day weekend on September 7, and run through the 16th. The $12.7 million project will close the runway to all fixed wing aircraft, takeoffs and landings, including commercial airline firefighting, and emergency medical operations. Tony Vircari is the aviation director for the airport. He says while he recognizes the impacts are great, it's necessary for safety and hopefully we'll have no other issues. For the next 10 years

Tony Vircari:

Air cargo will be flying here and emergency medical flights won't be flying other than rotor, which is still available, the US Forest Service tanker base won't be operating for that 10 day period. Thankfully, we've been crossing our fingers for the better part of a year that we wouldn't be in a major drought or fire type situation. And as long as we can maintain current conditions for another two weeks here, we can thankfully try to clear that without any major incident. So it's got huge impacts. And we've always been aware of that with this project. But we just know that isn't one runway, we don't have an option, you have to maintain it. And it's gonna be painful no matter when you close, but it's a necessary project. And the good news is once we're done rehabbing the runway, we shouldn't have to touch it for any extended closure for the better part of a decade, if not longer,

Sarah Flower:

As travel numbers have picked back up to 2019 levels for carry says the closure is also expected to have a substantial financial hit across the region,

Tony Vircari:

Our last economic impact study was done right before the pandemic. So it's would be relevant today, since we're essentially back at pre pandemic traffic levels and economic impact levels that showed about a $300 million annual economic impact from the airport. So if you just do real loose math over a 365 day calendar year that would more or less equate to, you know, a little under a million dollars a day and total economic impact. So you multiply that up by 10 days and you could be looking at somewhere between seven and eight and a half million dollars and sort of cumulative economic impact that is by and large, lost during that 10 day period. So it's pretty substantial in terms of, you know, ingress and egress to the community and the other ancillary pieces that come along with it.

According to the Vircari construction crews will be working 24/7 to complete the runway repaving project in that 10 day timeframe. Airlines are expected to continue their travel schedules starting on September 17. For those that may be in need of travel in that 10 day time period. There are other airports throughout the region, including commercial airline service at Cortez Municipal Airport, Montrose Regional Airport and Albuquerque International Sunport

Reporting for KSUT Tribal Radio. I'm Sarah Flower

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