Cedar City Regional Airport runway project to shut down commercial flights for 4 months in 2020

CEDAR CITY — Cedar City Regional Airport will be closed to commercial flights for approximately four months next year, due to a scheduled rebuilding of its runways.

The runway reconstruction project, to be completed in seven phases, calls for the replacement of more than 12,000 linear feet of asphalt on the airport’s two runways, making them safer and able to hold heavier aircraft.

“It’s going to be designed around the Airbus A-320 or the Boeing 737,” airport manager Nick Holt said. “It’ll be able to handle the weight of 170,000 pounds. Right now we’re only rated for 75,000.”

Additionally, improved lighting and signage systems will be installed, he said, adding that the seventh and final phase of the project is expected to be completed by Sept. 22 of next year.

Holt said commercial operations are scheduled to be shut down from March 16 until July 19. Customers who have already bought tickets for flights during that time frame are being notified.

Cedar City Regional Airport manager Nick Holt and operations manager Tyler Galetka discuss details of upcoming runway project, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I spoke with Delta Airlines last week, and they’re going to start making sure that any tickets that were sold, that they’re going to give (passengers) the opportunity to either rebook through St. George or Salt Lake or one of their other airports, or refund their money,” Holt told Cedar City News. “Delta has already started doing that this week.”

Holt and airport operations manager Tyler Galetka both noted that plans for the upcoming project have been in the works for the past couple years, as the airport’s runways have already surpassed their life expectancy.

“When the FAA funds these projects, they expect a runway to last 20 years,” Holt said.

Cedar’s runway was last rebuilt 31 years ago, with an overlay performed about 11 years ago that added another decade to its lifespan. 

“Since we had a total reconstruct, it’s been over 31 years,” Holt said. “We’re happy about that. We’re glad that we’ve got our life expectancy out of it.”

Cedar City Regional Airport runway, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Galetka said the process of filing for Federal Aviation Administration grants started approximately two years ago, with the funding ultimately being approved in late October. 

The total cost of the project is estimated at $17 million, with 95% of that coming from federal and state funds, Holt said, calling the arrangement “a good deal.”

“It’s actually two different funded projects rolled into one project so that the federal government’s funding our main runway,” Holt said.

Utah has contributed a $700,000 state grant to do a portion of the secondary runway. 

What makes the deal even better, Holt said, is that the FAA is allowing Cedar City to meet its required 5% contribution without having to pay in cash.

“Instead of having our taxpayers pay out cash to meet that match, the city’s doing what they call a force account,” Holt said. “What that is, is we’re using city equipment, city streets and some of our man-hours to come out and do a portion of the project.”

Out of four bidders, Sunroc Corporation landed the contract for the runway construction project. 

Cedar City Regional Airport manager Nick Holt stands in front of airport terminal, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 16, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Nick Holt, St. George News / Cedar City News

“The nice thing about that is that out of that $17 million, the majority of it is staying right here in Cedar City, local companies, and so that money’s being dumped back into our economy,” Holt said. “We feel good about that.” 

Cedar’s planned runway rebuild did get bumped down in priority by St. George Regional Airport, which shut down for four months earlier this year due to a major runway repair project.

Unlike St. George’s project, however, Cedar’s won’t require an airport-wide shutdown, Holt said, noting that Cedar’s main runway, known as 2-20, will only be closed one half at a time, enabling the other half to be used by smaller aircraft. Additionally, the secondary crosswind runway, known as 8-26, which will be rebuilt in a later phase of the project, will still be available to pilots while the main runway is being rebuilt.

“The airport itself isn’t going to be shut down during the construction,” Holt added. “We’re still going to allow smaller airplanes to land on a runway. FedEx should still be able to get in and out. Small private jets should still be able to get in and out to come to our FBO (fixed-base operator).”

Cedar City Regional Airport runway, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Additionally, Southern Utah University’s aviation programs are not likely to be negatively affected.

“It’s up to each individual company to decide whether this is a safe operation for them to come in,” Holt said. “But we’re going to follow all the FAA regulations and make sure that the threshold has been displaced and that we have our safety areas in place.”

The airport will be notifying pilots of the construction by posting and updating notices through the FAA’s Notices to Airmen system, or NOTAM.

Holt said potential concerns regarding access for wildland firefighting operations are also being addressed.

“We’re working with the BLM right now, and we might see smaller firefighter aircraft coming in here to get retardant if there’s fires,” he said.

Holt said the anticipated loss of revenue next year will be largely offset by the record-setting increase in passengers Cedar’s airport has seen this year, thanks in large part to the closure of the St. George airport.

Detailed plans showing multiple phases of Cedar City Regional Airport’s upcoming runway project, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Through the end of October, there have already been 25,555 passenger enplanements between Cedar City and Salt Lake City over 10 months, an increase of more than 60% over 2018’s annual total of 15,608 enplanements over 12 months.

“St. George really did help us,” he said. “We’re hoping that these numbers will help offset next year when we lose four months.”

Delta Connection, operated by SkyWest Airlines, provides daily commercial flights to and from Cedar City. Starting Dec. 4, flights between Cedar City and Salt Lake City will operate on an earlier schedule. For more details, click here.

Those with further questions about the upcoming runway project may contact the airport at 435-867-9408.

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

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