The Los Alamos County Airport has experienced a lot of improvements recently from environmental cleanup and new concrete pads by the Department of Energy to new County-owned hangars. Now, another upgrade is in the works: a new perimeter fence.
The 50-year-old barbed wire fence that runs along N.M. 502 and Airport Road will be replaced with a black-vinyl coated chain link fence. The work was awarded to TriWest Fence and the project is expected to begin in October and is estimated to be completed around February. In addition to the new fence, the two vehicle gates and three pedestrian gates will be replaced.
The total cost of the project, including a 10 percent contingency, is $843,846.85. It is being funded by numerous sources. The County is contributing $99,368; the New Mexico Department of Transportation awarded a $54,297 aviation grant; but the biggest contributor is the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) $613,468 Airport Improvement Program Grant.
Airport Manager Cameron Humphres said the need for a new fence was identified in the airport master plan, which was updated in 2013.
He explained every public airport in the nation that seeks funding needs a master plan. In this master plan, capital improvement projects are identified.
“The purpose of the airport perimeter fence is to ensure the security and safety of the people using the airport and the people outside of the airport,” Humphres said.
Furthermore, the fence helps mitigate wildlife hazards.
The master plan identified the fence as a capital improvement project because it is old and deteriorating in some places, he said.
Humphres explained the fence was constructed more than 50 years ago and originally was just three strands of barb wire. Then, eight strands were added to make the fence 6-7 feet tall.
Humphres said he was born in Los Alamos and remembers visiting the airport with his grandfather and it had that very same fence.
While the fence is now showing its age, Humphres said, “the fact we’ve gotten 50 years out of it is amazing.”
The project to replace the fence has been in the works since 2013. Humphres explained FAA funding is divided into regions and the agency chooses which to fund based on needs.
“They have to weigh all the needs in their region,” he said.
The hope is the new fence will last just as long as the original.
“I would hope it would last another 50 years,” Humphres said.
He added improvements to the airport benefits the whole community because it plays a vital role in Los Alamos.
“When you think about the airport it is important to know it is one of two transportation modes in and out of the city … something I think is easy for people to question is the value of an airport with no commercial air service … but this airport is used every day by people commuting to and from the lab. There are business owners looking to expand in Los Alamos County that use the airport,” Humphres said.
He added Classic Air Medical utilizes the airport and the U.S. Forest Service will use the airport as a base. Los Alamos National Laboratory will turn to the airport for emergency transportation of personnel and equipment. Plus, Civil Air Patrol operates from the airport as well as, which provides training and leadership opportunities for the young people.
Finally, the airport has the only weather reporting system in the County that provides reports to the National Weather Service, Humphres said.
“It’s an investment in an important community asset,” he said. “It ensures this airport continues to support those entities.”
Humphres said the capital improvement projects at the airport do take the public’s input into account. When creating the master plan, citizens were asked for feedback on the projects. As a result, projects like the new fence ensure the airport’s future but also follow through on what County residents said they wanted.