ST. GEORGE — A massive structural repair and upgrade project will necessitate a four-month closure of the St. George Regional Airport next year.
Approximately 5,400 linear feet of runway will need to be excavated and replaced as a result of water entering the soil underneath it and damaging the existing runway pavement, creating the need for continual patching. During the anticipated 120-day construction project, the airport will be closed to all flights from April 25-Aug. 21, 2019.
“We’d love it to be faster but we can’t be telling our airline partners you can sell tickets and then not meet it,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, explaining that the city, which owns the airport, consulted with contractors to determine how long the project would take.
The project will cost approximately $27 million, St. George Support Services Director Marc Mortensen said. About 90 percent of the cost will be paid for by an approximately $25 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The city’s share will amount to around $2 million, which will be funded by the airport’s passenger facility charges – a fee assessed to each passenger on every flight.
The St. George City Council approved the grant during a public meeting Thursday.
Mortensen said the repairs are an “absolute necessity.”
St. George Public Works Director Cameron Cutler said the runway was originally built to design standards and complied with all FAA guidelines but water entering the soil underneath has nonetheless caused issues. He said this time around, engineers are working to avoid that problem entirely in the future.
“They’re putting some protective measures in place and going outside the runway to put a barrier to be able stop that water from getting down into the soils,” he said, explaining that contractors will be excavating about 17 feet deep this time around.
During the closure, the city will also take the opportunity to upgrade the airport’s facilities inside the terminal and expand the parking area.
“This is a big deal, but we’ve known it was coming,” Pike said, explaining that all of the airlines operating at the airport have been aware that large-scale repairs will be necessary at some point.
The project’s April-August schedule was chosen to coincide with the time of year when flights in and out of St. George are less frequently booked.
In the meantime, a patching project has been underway on the areas of the runway at issue, which is being funded by additional FAA grant money and funds from passenger facility charges.
The airport is served by St. George-based SkyWest Airlines on behalf of Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines and the newest addition, Allegiant Air.
“SkyWest supports the airport’s efforts to improve the runway and maintain a safe operating environment,” SkyWest spokesman Layne Watson said in a statement to St. George News Thursday. “We will continue working with the City and airport and remain committed to delivering unmatched service to SGU travelers.”
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