ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – St. George Regional Airport closed for repairs Wednesday as crews work on a $26 million project that involves tearing out and rebuilding the runway.
Airport manager Rich Stehmier said crews will work 24 hours a day during the week, digging 17 feet underneath the runway to extract Southern Utah’s blue clay that has caused massive damage after rainfall.
“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,” said Stehmier.
Stehmier said the various types of clay expand at different rates, creating cracks that caused pilots to make extremely bumpy landings. Crews will create a barrier along the sides of the runway to keep water out of the ground completely, according to the airport manager.
“Even if it was to get wet, the 17 feet of geological pressure will keep the swelling to one inch or less,” he added.
Ninety percent of the project will be paid for by the FAA, with remaining costs covered by federal infrastructure funds and passenger fees, according to airport officials.
Excavation crews told Stehmier that they should finish the runway a week and a half ahead of schedule if all goes according to plan.
With nearly 300,000 passengers flying to or from St. George last year, city manager Adam Lenhart said the future of the airport is bright.
“Our goal is to make this bigger and better than its ever been before, and I think that’s the track that we’re on,” said Lenhart.
The city recently announced a new American Airlines flight to Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport. Lenhart added that those flights will begin the day the airport reopens on September 26.