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Airport advocates push back on runway-shortening plan

The 4-3 vote of the City Council on March 4 refocused goals for the city as it considers the design of an improved evacuation-by-road route for Glenwood Springs. The South Bridge project would give local traffic a route across the Roaring Fork River to connect with Colorado Highway 82, said Josh Pruzek, AOPA’s Northwest Mountain regional manager. The $56 million route plan includes a tunnel section of the road that would pass beneath the south end of the 3,305-foot-long Runway 14/32. In a move to cut project costs by an estimated $6 million, however, some officials argued for scrapping the tunnel idea and instead shortening the runway to build the road across airport property.

In a major campaign of public education, media outreach, and advertising, AOPA, working closely with Eric Strautman, our Airport Support Network volunteer, and the Friends of the Glenwood Springs Airport group, led by Amy Helm, the former airport manager, pointed out that the South Bridge Project, tunnel included, has already been approved by city officials—with engineering work accomplished.

By contrast, the alternative proposal that would shorten the runway has not yet been shown to be feasible, and would cut off access to some airport facilities, threatening the future viability of the airport that serves Glenwood Springs and plays a key role in public safety including service as a base of operations for past wildfire-fighting efforts.

According to a newspaper account of the City Council’s action on the road project, public education is producing benefits: One councilor who was previously opposed to the tunnel plan said he had reconsidered his position based on the public’s response.

Councilor Tony Hershey “said he’s never received so much feedback on an issue than he did over the last week, and said the input was overwhelmingly in favor of the tunnel option if that meant saving the airport’s runway,” the report said.

It added that Hershey also opposed keeping the runway-shortening option on the table with the airspace and airport activity study—the only councilor to oppose that measure.

Airport supporters, already wary of signs that some officials want to repurpose the airport property for real-estate development, will closely monitor developments, Pruzek said.

He also noted that the effectiveness of the airport-advocacy effort in Glenwood Springs demonstrates how supporters of any general aviation airport could respond to anti-airport policies—provided they are organized as a support group.

AOPA members should check whether their airport has an AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer, and consider filling the role if it is vacant, he said, adding, “You never know when your local airport will need a group of friends.”

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