City Of Driggs

Mayor Christensen's Airport Runway Shift Facts Op-Ed

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City Hall

60 South Main Street
P.O. Box 48
Driggs, Idaho 83422

Hours: Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Friday 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Phone: (208) 354-2362

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Published: April, 24 2024

Driggs-Reed Memorial Airport Runway Shift Project Facts:

There have been several letters to the editor about the airport, most recently from Dr. Rich Sugden, owner of Teton Aviation (the airport’s fixed base operator, or FBO). As mayor, I wanted to share additional information about the runway shift project to help address further misinformation.

Keeping the Driggs-Reed Memorial Airport and our community safe is a top priority for the City. Planning for the runway shift project began in 2018 with a Master Plan Update and was noted in previous versions as well. The Master Planning process is a thorough and open process, with careful attention to review FAA safety standards and the existing conditions, which makes our entire community safer. This project has received valuable guidance from the FAA, airport staff, airport advisory board, City leadership, consultants, as well as input from airport tenants and members of the public.

Since 2018, the City has had seven open public meetings for the Master Plan Update and the Environmental Assessment which were directly related to this project, two of which took place at Teton Aviation with Teton Aviation staff in attendance. In addition, staff from the FBO were key members of the planning committee who provided valuable input in the development of the Master Plan Update. At the conclusion of the Master Plan Update and Environmental Assessment, the FAA addressed all public comments from the open forums, none of which addressed a stopway or clearway. Nor were there any comments regarding the removal of 1,945’ of existing runway on the southwest. Furthermore, the runway shift project has been a regular topic of discussion at monthly airport advisory board meetings for the past six years, and a few city council meetings which are regularly attended by members of the public.

This project started because the FAA identified violations with two major safety standards: Runway Object Free Area (ROFA) and Runway Protection Zone (RPZ). These concerns were addressed to City leadership in a letter dated May 8, 2017.

Because the Teton Aviation FBO building is within 400’ of the runway centerline, it falls within the Runway Object Free Area (ROFA). The ROFA is meant to provide areas clear of objects in the unfortunate case of an airplane accident on the runway. Should the existing southwest 1,945’ of runway pavement remain in place and be designated as a stopway, the FBO building (which includes Forage restaurant, formerly Warbirds Cafe), would remain in the ROFA, and the airport would not be in compliance with FAA safety standards. The next alternative would be to remove a portion of the FBO building.

The runway shift relocates the southwest Runway Protection Zone (RPZ) completely onto airport property. Currently, the RPZ (which limits acceptable land uses under the approach path of runways) is not on airport property and homes and private property are located within this area. Shifting the runway 1,945’ brings the RPZ completely onto airport property, which allows the City to control how the land is utilized and improve safety for all airport users and the public. Additionally, the shift centrally locates the runway between Highway 33 and Hastings Lane, which theoretically will reduce disturbances to the public from airport noise.

Arguments for a stopway do not address that a stopway would cause the runway to be almost 2000’ longer, at 9,245’, which is a backtrack from the publicly stated position that the City is not lengthening the runway.

There is no clear evidence there is significant overrun risk. Neither the City nor the FAA have records of any overruns at the Driggs airport, though both entities keep careful records of all reported incidents.

The proposed slope of the runway, including the runway shift extension, are well within international aviation safety standards. The design has been carefully examined by many levels at the FAA and provides an acceptable level of safety, while accounting for site-specific constraints.

The bottom line is that the runway will be shifted 1,945’ to the northeast to increase safety and to become compliant with FAA safety standards regarding ROFA and RPZ as specifically addressed by the FAA. I have actively communicated with the FAA, and the project has been thoughtfully planned to provide improved safety for all airport users. This will be a significant step forward for our community.

November Community Conversation: Open topic with the Mayor
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60 South Main Street
Post Office Box 48
Driggs, Idaho 83422


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