Culminating a two-decade-long effort, FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta joined local and state officials last week in dedicating the new, 8,600-foot runway at Taos Regional Airport.
The new runway is perpendicular to the original runway. It will enable pilots to operate more safely at times of year when wind directions make the airfield more challenging.
The project also comes with important provisions aimed at protecting the lands and lifestyle of the Taos Pueblo.
“An airport is a treasure. It is the lifeblood of a community, an asset that must be nurtured,” Huerta said. “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.”
Federal grants totaling about $25 million paid for most of the project cost.
The environmental review for the project included extensive government-to-government consultation with the Taos Pueblo, 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 World Heritage site from 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet.
“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.”