Amid a double whammy of COVID-19 and the collapse of oil prices, the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport says it is still on track with a multi-phase project, expected to conclude with a brand new runway.

Currently, a parallel taxiway and temporary runway is in progress so that they can start rebuilding the main runway next year.

“It is a very exciting project to be a part of and being involved from the very beginning in the planning efforts, It has been a process and it is exciting and we are excited to be moving forward,” Airport Manager Kelly Braun said. “As far as the future goes, I look at everything from an economic development standpoint, and this is critical infrastructure that will allow economic growth in Southwest North Dakota and specifically in our community and in Dickinson."

According to Braun, the ongoing construction project is going well and is on track to open up around Nov. 5.

Plans are being made and bids are being received to finish the rest of the project at this time.

“We will start construction on the main runway next spring and just went through and received bids for the first phase of construction next year. We opened bids on Tuesday, and the apparent low bidder right now is Martin Construction which has been doing the construction on the project since the very beginning,” Braun said. “Denny’s Electric is the apparent low bidder for the electrical portion of the project and lighting. They are another local company, and I am very pleased that we have local contractors that are taking advantage of the federal project at the airport.”

Braun believes that it is good that this project is moving forward despite the economic climate, because he believes it provides local contractors and businesses a chance to still work and allows for a huge economic benefit to the community.

The bids have not been formally approved yet as they have to be verified that they are correct and there are no errors. The bid from Martin Construction came in just under $15 million, which was a few hundred thousand dollars under expectation.

While the construction project is moving along, enplanements at the airport have decreased significantly over the past few months due to the pandemic.

Coincidentally, United Airlines also implemented their plans of cutting back flights to and from the airport — a significant loss for the regional airport.

“They are only operating a morning departure and evening arrival, and right now we have no Saturday night arrival and Sunday morning departure,” said Braun.

The changes concerning weekend schedules is expected to last until July 5, and after that it is unclear what will happen.

“There are two issues that we are dealing with and they compound each other. The COVID-19 pandemic is the big one and then oil and gas is the second. We are no different than any other airports across the state and country. We have seen a 95% loss in our enplanement numbers,” Braun said. “With the downturn of oil and gas we have also seen a downturn in the number of corporate jets and private aircrafts that use our facility. With both of those, the revenue that the airport generates through fees and commissions are all off significantly.”