Repairs at St. George airport on schedule, with extra ‘wiggle room’

File photo of airplane at St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, Aug. 21, 2018 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News.

ST. GEORGE — Exactly one month into its $26 million runway repair project, St. George Regional Airport remains on pace to reopen and resume commercial flights on Sept. 26.

Construction crews and excavators have encountered no surprises or delays as they renovate roughly 7,000 feet of cracked runway and tarmac that posed a safety concern.

“We’re at about 25% completion, so that puts us right on schedule,” said David Cordero, communications and marketing director for the city of St. George. “With the way we have shifts going, if there’s some time that needed to be made up, if for whatever reason they fell behind, there’s a little bit of wiggle room built in.”

The runway project features 120 or so people working under intense deadlines to fix water damage caused by blue clay and other problematic soils.

Construction started May 29, temporarily shutting down the 8-year-old airport, which hosted more than 277,000 fliers last year and had been on pace to eclipse that record through the first three months of 2019, according to Cordero.

A construction crew works to repair part of a roughly 7,000-foot stretch of runway at St. George Regional Airport, Utah, June 2019 | Photo courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

Roughly 90% of the airport overhaul is being funded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Officials chose the May 29-Sept. 25 block for closure because it typically represents a slower season for air travel into St. George.

Meeting the Sept. 26 deadline is vital so that the airport can accommodate fliers for the St. George Marathon Oct. 5 and the Huntsman Senior Games Oct. 7-19. Both of those events combined are expected to host north of 20,000 athletes, plus thousands of other attendees.

This archive photograph shows cracking on the runway at St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, 2012 | Photo courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

Experts, some flying in from France, are consulting on the project. It is a massive undertaking: Excavators have had to dig 17 feet deep, more than 8 million cubic feet of runway must be removed and 5,800 linear feet of pipe is being installed.

In the short-term, closing the airport for four months represents a huge inconvenience to would-be fliers and the airport’s service provider, SkyWest Airlines. Longer-term, however, the upgrades should be a boon to a skyrocketing city that recently ranked No. 3 in the nation for population growth in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If the repairs finish ahead of schedule, Cordero said the airport will still remain closed until Sept. 26.

“It is possible that it could get done early,” Cordero said, “but that doesn’t mean we would open it early because with commercial airlines, you need to have time to sell tickets and all that stuff. But so far there are no surprises and everything is going according to plan.

“It’s going great and we’re delighted with the process.”

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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