REDMOND, Ore. -

The Redmond Municipal Airport announced Friday it has pushed back the scheduled Monday start of its $20 million runway reconstruction project by nearly a month, to Sept. 15, so as not to interfere with air tankers at work fighting wildfires in the region.

"The city of Redmond, in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service, has determined it is in the best interest of the Central Oregon region to delay the closure of Runway 4-22 to better accommodate firefighting tanker aircraft due to the intense and prolonged fire season experienced this year," the new announcement said.

“This change recognizes the critical role the airport plays in supporting USFS aerial firefighting efforts and the impact the closure of the primary runway will have on current operations,” according to Airport Director Jeffrey Tripp.

The airport’s primary runway pavement strength is rated to handle large, heavy USFS tanker aircraft; the airport’s secondary runway (10-28) is not currently rated to adequately support tanker aircraft operations without potentially damaging the runway pavement, the city noted.

"The five week extension will hopefully provide sufficient time for the fire season to slow down and the need for aerial firefighting operations from Redmond to be reduced," the city's statement said.

The city would like to thank and recognize High Desert Aggregate and Paving of Terrebonne for their willingness to work with the city’s request to change the project start date," the statement added.

Last week, Tripp spoke to NewsChannel 21 about the need for the two-year, two-phase project to rebuild the aging main runway at the airport, also known as Roberts Field.

"We're simply at the point where the current runway was last overlaid, back in 1993, so by the time we finish up both phases it will be right around 23-24 years -- so right within the normal life-cycle for pavement," Tripp said.

There are no potholes or pits on the runway now, but Tripp says if it isn't upgraded, problems could pop up and cause a bumpy, unsafe ride for air travelers.

"On a road, you can always put up some cold patch, put up a few signs and call it good,"Tripp said."You can't do that on a runway, so we need to make sure it's in top condition at all times."

The first phase will take about 90 days and include reconstruction of 1,290 feet of runway, upgrading to new high-intensity lights and drainage improvements, just to name a few elements.

Redoing the runway could mean rerouting airlines, so communication up in the sky has to be air-tight.

"We'll be putting up what we call 'runway closure X's' -- big, large, lighted X's you can see for about 30 miles, to help warn pilots that the runway is closed," Tripp said. " In addition, we have what are called 'notices to airmen' that are published that all pilots are supposed to be checking before they take off and go to an airport,.

The second phase of the project will take place next year, consisting of full depth reconstruction of the remaining 5,750 feet of runway.

"Next year, in Phase 2, when we actually reach the intersection of both runways, we will have to actually close the airport for a period of time," Tripp said. "Right now, we are trying to minimize the closure to as little as possible. It could be a week, two weeks or three weeks, but right now we aren't sure."

The total cost of the two-phase project is estimated at about $20 million, with the Federal Aviation Administration picking up nearly 94 percent of the cost. The city hopes to receive a Connect Oregon V grant to offset the city's portion of the cost and expects to hear on that in September, officials said.

Here's the full, original news release from the city:

As part of the City of Redmond’s continuing commitment to provide the highest quality airport facilities and services to the Central Oregon region and its air travel needs, the Redmond Airport will begin a 90-day pavement rehabilitation project to the airport’s primary runway (Runway 4-22) starting on Monday, August 18.

This capital improvement project is intended to help maintain and prolong the useful life of the airport’s pavements.

Typically, asphalt pavements have a lifespan of approximately 20-30 years, depending upon local environmental conditions and pavement management practices. Runway 4-22 was last reconstructed in 1993; this project will extend the pavement life for an additional 20-year period.

The current project is comprised of two phases. Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2014 and consists of the following major project items:

1. Full depth reconstruction of approximately 1,290 feet of Runway 4-22;
2. Construction of precision approach markings and new runway designator numerals (4-22 to 5-23);
3. Construction of runway grooving;
4. Construction of runway drainage improvements;
5. Construction of new high-intensity runway lights;
6. Construction of runway shoulder and runway safety area grading;
7. Updating runway guidance signage and pavement markings associated with the runway designator change from “Runway 4-22” to “Runway 5-23”;
8. Updating runway guidance signage and pavement markings associated with the runway designator change from “Runway 10-28” to “Runway 11-29”; and
9. Reconfiguration of Taxiway “E” markings.

The project was designed by Century West Engineering of Bend. The construction contract for Phase 1 work, in the amount of over $2.633 million was awarded to High Desert Aggregate and Paving of Terrebonne through a competitive bid process.

Phase 2, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2015, will consist of full depth reconstruction of the remaining 5,750 feet of Runway 4-22, runway grooving, runway drainage improvements, high-intensity runway lights, and runway shoulder/runway safety area grading.

Project construction updates will be available on-line at www.flyrdm.com under the News & Media section.

The airport is sensitive to the impact this project may have on our neighbors. This runway closure will require the rerouting of all aircraft arrivals and departures to Runway 10-28 (northwest to southeast) for the duration of the project.

Redmond citizens may notice increased aircraft activity and noise over the city of Redmond while the primary runway is closed.

The airport will work with the airport traffic control tower and aircraft operators to minimize noise impacts to the greatest extent possible. Citizens may contact the Airport at 541-504-3499 or RDM@flyrdm.com to report noise disturbances.

The Redmond Municipal Airport (Roberts Field - RDM) is the aviation gateway to Central Oregon. Owned and operated by the City of Redmond, the airport offers a full range of general and commercial aviation services. RDM is served by four air carriers; Alaska Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United with 15 daily direct flights to Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.