Funds to aid Cortez airport

$2.4M going to capital improvements

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The Cortez Municipal Airport will be receiving $2.4 million in capital improvements in the near future.

Airport manager Russ Machen said the federal government will pick up $1.92 million of the $2.4 million cost, while $138,000 will be paid by the city and the remaining portion of $391,000 will come from the state.

Machen said one of the projects will be paving the shoulders on both sides of the taxiway, making them 20-feet wide on each side.

He said the improvement would help control erosion and would also help with snow removal.

He said this project will take 30 to 35 days to finish, and added it would result in the airport being closed for five to seven days.

During this same timeframe the airport will be rehabilitating a tie-down ramp, Machen said, which involves repairing some major cracking that has occurred on a tie down over the last 10 years.

A tie down ramp allows owners to secure their planes in one area of the airport.

He also said that if funds are available, a Federal Aviation Administration maintenance road will be installed.

“It would give an all-weather access to FAA maintenance to navigate to (areas) on the airfield,” Machen said.

If the funds are available, the maintenance road construction would take three to four days and would be done during the same time as the other two projects.

“We hope to start in the month of May and finish by August,” Machen said.

Paving projects need to be done in the warmer months so the asphalt has time to cure.

At a recent workshop meeting with the Cortez City Council, Machen presented his budget projection with one caveat.

He requested some help at the airport since he is currently a one-man show.

Machen said it could take up to a year for a person to be prepared to operate the airport in Machen’s absence.

Council discussed hiring a person to work at the airport for 30 hours a week with the remaining 10 hours being done at the municipal court.

Machen said when he takes a vacation now he is still tied to the job through his cell phone and email.

Machen, when talking about the airline flights from the airport, said currently there are four roundtrip flights to Denver daily, though that number will drop to three on Nov. 5, which is an airline decision.

The Cortez Airport, served by Great Lakes Airlines, provides service to about 8,000 passengers a year.

“Supply and demand is the driving force behind the price,” he said.

In comparison, Machen said the Durango-La Plata County Airport draws about 100,000 passengers a year, while the Four Corners Airport in Farmington serves between 40,000 to 45,000 passengers annually.