Airport runway safety area expansion outlined

Glenn Wallace
Posted

Major changes are scheduled to arrive at Rocky Mountain Metro Airport (RMMA) this year.

Airport Manager Kenneth Maenpa reported to the Jefferson County commissioners that a $13 million project to expand a runway safety area will break ground this year, and be done by December, if all proceeds as planned.

Maenpa was quick to say that the airport work would not add a single inch to the existing roadway length. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines call for a 1,000-foot long and 500-foot wide safety area off the end of a runway like the one used at RMMA. The current runway, built more than 40 years ago, requires substantial expansion to meet those requirements, according to Maenpa.

“And darn it, that expansion is right in the middle of that (Interlocken Loop and Highway 128) intersection,” just to the north of the existing airport, Maenpa said.

To accommodate the necessary safety space, the county is shifting the entire intersection, and associated roadways, to the north, accounting for much of the project’s cost. Maenpa said phase one of the project began last summer, and was to acquire the land and begin dealing with the work involved to untangle and move “an incredible spaghetti maze of utilities” that follow those roadways.

“That’s the largest part of this project, right there,” said Jeffco Commission Chair Donald Rosier at the meeting.

Phase two is the intersection change and utility shifting, which is currently under way. This phase includes the moving of a high-pressure gas line and regulation station.

Phase three, the building up of a slope to accommodate the runway safety area, will begin this summer, and involve an estimated one million cubic yards of fill dirt, building up as much as 58 feet. Of the project costs, the FAA is providing $11,450,000 in grants. Local matching funds are being provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation ($1 million), and Jefferson County’s Airport Division ($636,111).

Maenpa said the airstrip would have to be closed for one 30-day period this year to accommodate the shifting of some radar equipment, but that the Forest Service fire suppression operations and the airport’s annual air show should be unaffected.