|Thanks to a booming economy and the increase in aviation activity in the State, the Colorado Aeronautical Board is in the very enviable, if imposing, position of discussing prudent and worthwhile ways to spend the more than $3 million in excess funds projected to be in the Colorado Aviation Fund next year. The Aviation Fund is the recipient of aviation fuel excise and sale taxes and is the repository for funds distributed as entitlement refunds to the airports of origin, for CDOT-Aeronautics Division administrative expenses, and as discretionary grants for aviation purposes. None of these areas will be impacted by the windfall.
Two years ago, the Colorado Aeronautical Board wisely advised the Division of its intent to squirrel revenues in a project pot that would enable it to make a significant impact on the aviation system in the third year. Now, as the coffers fill, the Board ponders the options.
With input from the aviation communityairport managers, pilot organizations, and local governments which operate airportsthe Board has discussed preferences:
- A statewide airport maintenance program.
- Major construction investments in the aviation systems.
- Increases in the current spending level for discretionary grants.
- Location and operation of aviation weather reporting equipment at critical and volatile areas such as mountain passes and along the Continental Divide have been proposed as significant options.
Airports have identified the need for continuing pavement maintenance as a very important role that the State can play in the overall well being of the airport system. They have good memories of earlier projects of this kind.
The Colorado Aeronautical Board has directed the CDOT-Aeronautics Division staff to profile a similar project to provide fog seal protection and pavement striping. Because of staffing limitations and the difficulty in monitoring a statewide project from Kansas to Utah and Wyoming to New Mexico, the Division will provide budgets to conduct three annual projects which will cover a third of the state each year. Planners are eyeing such a concept as a continuing program.
A project budget of $600,000-750,000 annually is the present talking point for a segmented project such as has just been discussed.
Other considerable needs are expected to appear as consultants completing a Colorado State Aviation System Plan make their recommendations. With system projections in hand, the Colorado Aeronautical Board is hoping to find direction for the increased development or continued support of several Colorado airports.
A third factor for consideration is the development of weather reporting and real-time updates of conditions in the very volatile mountain environmenta truly critical safety concern for both local and itinerant pilots. As technology makes knowing the weather easier, state-of-the-art facilities are now so much more imperative, yet financially possible. Of course, expanding the existing discretionary aviation grant program from its current $2.6 Million annual basis is another option to consider.
But, with the guidance from members of the aviation community, user input, and the CDOT-Aeronautics Division staff, the Board is determined to make a wise, long-term contribution to aviation in Colorado.Many of you have called the FSDO wondering if we are ever going to have a safety seminar in your area. As this issue of SW Aviator goes to press, the FAA's annual operating budget for FY 2000 is being discussed in the Senate and House Aviation Subcommittees. As the old man told O'Malley in High Road to China, "The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient." We appreciate your patience and hope to have our show on the road soon.