Taos Regional Airport in New Mexico has dedicated its new 8,600ft runway after 20 years of planning and development.
The new runway is perpendicular to the original runway and will enable pilots to operate more safely at times of the year when wind directions make the airfield more challenging. Federal grants totaling approximately US$25m paid for the majority of the project cost.
FAA Administrator Michael P Huerta joined local and state officials in dedicating the new runway last week: “An airport is a treasure. It is the lifeblood of a community, an asset that must be nurtured. The result of our collaborative efforts is a project that will improve both the safety and utility of this important regional transportation link, while respecting the traditional values and unique culture of the Taos Pueblo.”
The project comes with provisions aimed at protecting the lands and lifestyle of the world heritage site Taos Pueblo. The environmental review for the project included extensive government-to-government consultation with the Taos Pueblo, the Town of Taos, and numerous state and federal agencies.
This resulted in a number of mitigations, including the installation and operation of a passive noise monitoring system. The system, which began operating in 2014, will support a pre-project and post-project comparison of flights over the Taos world heritage site and adjacent lands. Additionally, the FAA raised the voluntary minimum flight altitude above the site from 2,000ft to 5,000ft.
“We got this project right because all of the stakeholders approached this in a spirit of collaborative partnership,” Huerta said. “Without tenacity, dedication and determination we would not be standing here today.”