KEARNEY, Neb. — A Utah-based airline is expected to add Kearney, Nebraska, to its list of flights after the local airport finishes replacing its runway.

How soon SkyWest could start flying between Denver and Kearney depends upon the $12 million project and on Essential Air Service contract approval for the St. George, Utah-based company.

The runway’s original concrete surface was poured in World War II. Layers of asphalt were added over the years, according to airport manager Jim Lynaugh. Those must be removed before the subsurface can be prepared for the new pavement. The work is scheduled to be finished in September.

While the main runway is closed, the airport’s secondary runway is available for smaller aircraft.

Kearney hasn’t had commercial passenger service since Sept. 10, when Anchorage, Alaska-based PenAir halted flights to some communities in Kansas and Nebraska after filing a bankruptcy reorganization plan. The airline had been deluged with complaints for months about flight delays and cancellations, which PenAir blamed on a shortage of planes and pilots.

Officials for airports in the Nebraska cities of North Platte, Scottsbluff and Kearney subsequently asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to award PenAir’s federally subsidized contract to SkyWest. SkyWest operates under the United Express flag and has a fleet of 417 aircraft and operates over 2,000 flights a day to 219 North American destinations.

The department has done so for North Platte and Scottsbluff, and Kearney City Manager Mike Morgan said Thursday he expects SkyWest to be approved for Kearney as well.

It will take some time to get through negotiations and set up the systems needed to operate in North Platte, officials there said. The hope is that the service to Denver will begin in March.

Western Nebraska Regional Airport manager Darwin Skelton said details still to be worked out but added that SkyWest’s contract for its Scottsbluff flights will begin on Feb. 1 and run through January 2020.