By Deb Ohlinger, PE
The old Garfield County Regional Airport (GCRA) runway in Rifle, Colorado, built in 1980, was designed for small, single and twin engine aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds. The Federal Aviation Administration wanted the airport to be upgraded to meet standards for the larger business jets weighing up to 134,500 pounds that had been using the airport more and more frequently. Planes are periodically unable to land at nearby airports in Eagle County and Aspen due to adverse weather conditions. These airports are also closed at night, whereas GCRA is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To upgrade the airport, the runway slope and the safety areas at the ends of the runway needed to be modified.
In March 2003, Peter Muller stopped by the GCRA to meet Brian Condie, the new airport director. Upon reviewing the latest master plan for the airport, Peter observed that the proposed solution did not allow for instrument-based landing of the business jets, so he devised a solution that did. Peter recommended rebuilding the runway and rotating it four degrees to direct planes away from the mountains and to open up more space for building on the airport property. Olsson Associates was hired to plan and design these improvements.
Reconstructing and realigning the runway entailed constructing embankments that added land to both ends of the mesa on which the airport is located. Excavation and fill slopes in the project area exceeded 70 vertical feet. The new fill slopes required relocating county roads, numerous utilities, and Dry Creek, which would be buried under the embankment; realigning a portion of Mamm Creek; and constructing a 40-foot high mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall where not enough land was available to slope down from the top of the mesa. These project elements were Olsson's responsibility. Reconstructing the runway itself was the responsibility of another consultant.
The Denver Water Resources team designed the relocated creek and drainage-related facilities and provided overall project management, led by Deb Ohlinger. During the course of the project, Peter formed PRT Consulting, Inc., specializing in personal rapid transit systems. He and Marek Kubesa, also a former Olsson employee, continued with the project as a subconsultant.
Seven years, $40 million in construction costs, and four million cubic yards of earth moved later, the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held November 18, 2010, on Runway 8-26. GCRA can now more safely accommodate business jets and looks forward to increasing its business and benefitting the community.
More information about the Garfield County Regional Airport can be found at: www.rifleairport.com
For more information about personal rapid transit systems, please visit: www.prtconsulting.com
Please contact Deb Ohlinger at 303.237.2072 or email@example.com if you have any questions or would like to discuss.