Flights in and out of St. George resumed Thursday following a four-month closure at its regional airport.

In late May, contractors embarked on a challenging $26 million runway reconstruction project, which airport manager Rich Stehmeier said was completed on time and on budget.

The old runway only lasted eight years, and the culprit, Stehmeier said, was Southern Utah’s infamous blue clay.

Over the years, moisture seeped underground and was pulled back up under the runway as the asphalt heated up, causing at least ten types of clay to expand at different rates.

Those expansive clays caused the runway to ripple, so crews dug 17 feet down to remove the soil, create a 5-foot clay moisture barrier, and install underdrains, working 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.

City officials said they expect the runway to last up to 40 years, believing the clay won’t cause any additional problems.

Flights resumed Thursday — and not just to Salt Lake City, Denver, Los Angeles, and Phoenix; the first flight from Dallas Fort Worth landed shortly before 5:00 p.m, which airport officials said will open connections to hundreds of new locations, including the Bahamas and destinations in Europe.

“Even though we’ve got those 900 daily departures and a couple hundred destinations, there’s now 92 distinct destinations that you can’t get to from Salt Lake City, Denver, Los Angeles, or Phoenix,” said St. George Mayor Jon Pike.

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