Millions will pay for improved runways and terminals
The Durango-La Plata County Airport on Tuesday received two federal grants that will help the airport rehabilitate its runway and a terminal design project.
Tony Vicari, director of aviation for DRO, told Durango City Council on Tuesday that he is planning the first grant, worth $11.6 million, to fund runway rehabilitation in September.
A second grant awarded on Tuesday took Vicari by surprise. The grant amounts to $3.2 million and was awarded as part of a bipartisan airport terminal infrastructure program, he said.
“It’s a highly competitive process,” he said of the grant. “In the first wave of applications, more than 600 applications from airports across the country totaled more than $14 billion, with only $1 billion in funding available this year. Very competitive process in terms of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) deciding which projects would get these awards in FY22, and Durango was selected as such.
He said the money would be ‘essential’ for the first phase of DRO’s terminal development at the airport, which is due to start in the first quarter of 2023. He said the airport would close a construction bid within two next few weeks and hire a contractor.
The scope of the project includes additional gate space, an additional overhead gate that will allow for greater capacity at the airport, new post-screening concessions and public restrooms, and additional utility infrastructure that will support the next phase of the project in 2024.
Vicari said the second grant is “major news” for the airport because it allowed the city to reallocate some of the money it had budgeted for the first phase of the project to the second phase, which is the most important phase of the terminal design project.
He said $1 billion will be available for grantmaking each year for the next four years. He said he expects competition with other airports for subsidies to increase in coming years.
“I think we have a highly justified and eligible project, but it will become more competitive over time,” he said.
He said the funding will also help the airport with a taxiway reconstruction project.
“It’s a really great situation where our project design and capital planning aligns with available funding and allows us to seize the opportunity to really get the ball rolling on this particular project in a way that fits to the additional needs of the airport,” he said.
In March, the DRO held an open house to showcase the terminal designs and outline the phases of the project.
Phase 1A is a targeted project that will focus on expanding parking options at the terminal, Vicari said at the open house.
The main parking area will be expanded with a new entrance to the area, a new rental car parking area will be constructed, the outdoor parking loop road will be demolished, and employee parking will be moved to the parking area south overflow, depending on the design. documents presented during the open day.
Expanding restroom capacities and adding other post-screening services are also planned for Phase 1A, Vicari said.
Phase 1B will bring fundamental changes to the flow, layout and passenger experience of the DRO, he said. Approximately 25,000 square feet will be added to the airport. Transportation Security Administration screening is expected to be moved to a yet to be built area with a more linear layout, in addition to a new baggage claim area and another flight gate and seating area.
Flights to and from the DRO will be suspended for 10 days in September for the repaving of runways and the installation of new lighting.
While the repaving of DRO’s single runway in September isn’t practical for travelers, Vicari shared her excitement and belief that routine maintenance will serve Four Corners communities in the long run.