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State and Local Officials Celebrate the Opening of a New Runway at Astronaut Kent Rominger Airport in Del Norte

November 2, 2010 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - RIO GRANDE COUNTY— On Friday, October 29th, the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, the Colorado Aeronautical Board and officials from Rio Grande County and the Town of Del Norte celebrated the completion of a new runway at Astronaut Kent Rominger Airport in Del Norte that will support air medical transportation as well as future economic growth and development.

“Dreams can come true.  What once seemed to be impossible is now a reality,” said Rio Grande County Commissioner Dennis Murphy.  “Thank you CDOT and the Division of Aeronautics.”

The new runway is 75 feet wide and 6,050 feet long as opposed to the existing runway which is 50 feet wide and 3,800 feet long.  The existing runway is too short to accommodate some airplanes, including medical transport planes such as flight for life.  Currently, medical staff has to fly into Monte Vista or Alamosa where they are transported to Del Norte to pick up the patient and then return to Monte Vista or Alamosa for air transportation to other hospitals.

The Rio Grande Hospital serves the western San Luis Valley and is a critical component of the community.  In 2009, the hospital transported 67 patients by fixed wing aircraft either out of Monte Vista or Alamosa.  In the first six months of 2010, 50 patients have been transported by fixed wing aircraft.  Over the 18-month span, that equates to 6.5 patients per month or more than one patient a week.

In addition to serving the Rio Grand Hospital, the new runway will allow for future hangar development, which will help attract more business to the airport and the community.  A longer and wider runway will also accommodate larger aircraft and the use of instrument approach may be possible in the future, which would allow access to the airport in a variety of weather conditions.

The runway improvements were funded by three state aviation grants issued by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, a division within the Colorado Department of Transportation, as well as approximately $900,000 from Rio Grande County.  The first two grants totaled nearly $500,000 and were used for earthwork and grading.  The third grant for nearly $2.1 million, the largest aviation grant ever issued by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, was used to complete the grading and paving of the new runway.

“We are extremely pleased to have provided funding for such a critical project with so many benefits to the community,” said Colorado Aeronautical Board Chairman Harold Patton.  “Not only will the new runway improve medical care, but it will open up many doors for the community to develop and grow in a time where economic growth is difficult.”

The Colorado Division of Aeronautics, created in 1991, supports Colorado’s aviation community through fuel tax funds, a discretionary aviation grant program and long-range system planning in partnership with Colorado’s airports.   The Colorado Airport System includes a total of 76 public-use airports, and of which 14 are categorized as commercial service airports and 62 categorized as general aviation airports. Astronaut Kent Rominger Airport is a general aviation airport, which provides a full range of aviation facilities and services to businesses and recreational users.

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