Pitkin County plans to spend nearly $600,000 to expand and upgrade its airport’s passenger waiting area.
By a 5-0 vote, commissioners Tuesday informally approved Aviation Director John Kinney’s plea for the expenditure, which includes enlarging the boarding space from 4,200 square feet to 6,325. The expanded space would increase the capacity from 280 passengers to 421. The gate area also would fold in the existing restaurant and gift shop. The small snack cart, which currently is located in the boarding area, would be moved to the baggage-claim section.
Commissioners are scheduled to officially approve the request today.
“I do think this is the minimum that we can do to make this facility a better experience,” County Manager Jon Peacock told commissioners.
Aviation Director John Kinney said the first phase of construction would be done during the nighttime hours, with completion expected around mid-January. The first scope of work includes expanding the boarding perimeter, installing new security gates and other work on the TSA checkpoint.
The second phase, expected for completion in March, would entail the installation of a exit-lane corridor for passengers, among other work.
Airport officials have said the passenger experience has suffered because of cramped space and a lack of amenities in the waiting area.
“We recognize this project doesn’t fix all the issues but will improve the secured hold area passenger experience,” Kinney wrote in a budget memo to commissioners. “This remodel is supported by the local TSA, airlines and other tenants.”
The goal is for the expanded wait area to fill the void for the next five to eight years before a new terminal is built.
On Dec. 8, county commissioners will review public feedback about the four terminal options for the airport.
They are scheduled to narrow that number down to two. Both would be subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. They also would require federally funded environmental assessments. Residents can comment about the four terminal concepts — a single-story terminal, split-level terminal, nested terminal and two-story terminal — at www.pitkin countyconnect.com.
The county’s airport layout plan, approved by commissioners in September, allows for the construction of a new terminal of up to 80,000 square feet. The plan also calls for additional above-ground parking and a new runway upgrade and reconfiguration that would accommodate larger aircraft.
County and tourism officials have said the runway improvement is necessary because the airline industry is phasing out CRJ700s, which currently comprise 95 percent of the airport’s commercial traffic.
The FAA has set the airport’s wingspan limits to 95 feet. The CRJ700s have a wingspan of 76 feet and 3 inches.
The CRJ700 fleet is projected to be retired by 2025
The total cost would be an estimated $145.9 million that the FAA would mostly cover, county officials have said.