Plan on flying out of Idaho Falls or Salt Lake City come spring 2022.
The reason a detour will be needed to catch a flight is because Jackson Hole Airport plans to be in the middle of tearing out and rebuilding its mile-long runway. The closure is “obviously impactful,” but it’s also needed, Airport Director Jim Elwood told his board of directors last week.
“We’re anticipating that closure to start in April of 2022 and run into June of ’22,” Elwood said.
“After many rehabilitations, it’s really due for a complete reconstruction,” he said. “What we learned as we moved into this project is that the sub-base is in such a condition that it’s not prudent to simply do a resurfacing again.”
Before geotechnical analysis results came in, airport staff had held out some hope that they could extend the runway’s lifespan with a touch-up that wouldn’t necessitate such a lengthy closure. But that won’t cut it, and so Jackson Hole Airport will remove the existing runway in its entirety, including some layers that date to the 1970s when the current landing strip was initially constructed. After it’s all excavated, some of the asphalt will be milled, recycled and incorporated into the new surface and underlying sub-bases.
Altogether it’s a big project estimated to cost between $45.5 million and $48 million, including the cost of a new collection and filtration system that will capture deicer and other liquids that run off the runway’s surface.
The project is moving ahead full bore, with the construction job scheduled to go to bid this winter and preparatory work planned to commence next summer. An engineering firm Jackson Hole Airport contracts with, Jviation, is leading the project, and Paul Fiore, the project manager, told the airport board the new runway will have some upgrades over what’s there today.
There will be centerline LED lights and LED signage, and “puck” sensors that will feed real-time data about temperature, precipitation and ice build up. The system, Fiore said, will aid snow-plowing and make sure the runway is as safe as it can possibly be.
Fiore also described “slot drains” and a planned runoff collection system that’s on the drawing board as an environmentally friendly addition to Jackson Hole Airport. Federal Aviation Administration funding for the collection portion of the project has not yet been secured, but the FAA has given the airport the nod to pursue that design in anticipation of funding becoming available.
The new runway will be the same size as what’s there today, at approximately 1.2 miles long and 150 feet wide with 25-foot shoulders. Its surface materials, however, are changing. The relatively permeable “porous friction course” asphalt that overlies the runway today is no longer authorized by the FAA because it’s prone to failing fast and with little warning, Elwood said.
In its place Jackson Hole Airport plans to use a denser type of asphalt. A potential downside is that the surface will be more prone to holding moisture and icing up.
“That may lead us to some sort of chemical treatment in the future,” airport board member Jerry Blann said.
During the 90-day closure in 2022, construction crews will be at work around the clock seven days a week, Fiore said.
“It’ll be a significant amount of work to happen in that time,” he said.
The reconstruction is scheduled to wrap up in the months of August and September 2022, when crews will be working at night to groove and stripe the cured asphalt.