ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – St. George Regional Airport is set to reopen Sept. 26 after a four-month closure, following a $26 million runway repair project.
While 91 percent of the airport repairs are being funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, city officials said the airport overhaul has caused a substantial loss of revenue and put some out of work. After only 8 years of use, airport manager Rich Stehmeier said the runway had sustained massive damage.
“The water would go off the edges of the runway and then literally get pulled back up underneath the runway as the asphalt heated up,” Stehmeier said, adding that the moisture caused at least 10 types of underground clay to expand at different rates, creating cracks and bumps on the surface. “That caused the runway to ripple.”
Contractors dug 17 feet down to remove the soil, causing enough geological pressure to ensure the clay won’t expand more than an inch in the future. Project manager Scot Pectol said construction crews mixed and moisturized the clay, created a 5-foot clay barrier, and installed underdrains to keep moisture out.
“Any given day, we’re working about 450 man-hours within JP Excavating alone,” said Pectol. “I’m proud that I can be a part of a project I know that I’ll be able to enjoy for the rest of my life and be able to tell my kids, ‘Hey, your Dad worked on that!’”
Stehmeier said the new runway should hopefully last up to forty years, but in the meantime, multiple airlines have had to halt their operations.
Marissa Snow, director of corporate and brand communications at SkyWest airlines, confirmed many employees ineligible for work were transferred to other regional airports, while others were given the option to take unpaid time off or secure other employment.
“While an extended closure isn’t ideal, summer is generally not peak travel season in St. George,” Snow said. “Our 50 SkyWest employees working at the SGU Airport were given a variety of options during the closure, including work at other SkyWest locations and voluntary time off. Nearly all employees are returning to work at SGU next week.
“SkyWest is excited to resume SGU air service next week, with the reopening of the airport. At that time, we’re pleased to announce new American flights to DFW!” Snow added.
Stehmeier said he estimated a $400,000 loss of revenue at the airport, based on parking, rental car, and landing fees alone, adding that last year about 277,000 passengers flew to and from St. George.
“It’s been a difficult four months,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “We can’t forget that this affects people and their livelihoods, but we’re thrilled that this was short lived and something that obviously had to be done to be safe and make sure that we’re compliant with the FAA.”
“It isn’t all gloom and doom,” Stehmeier said. “The number of passengers increased by 30 percent in the first quarter of the year.”
New flights to Dallas Fort-Worth starting Sept. 26 will add a new source of revenue, he added.
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