STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden is set to receive about $2.6 million in grant money to pay for upcoming expansion and improvement projects, including the construction of a new terminal.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the funds as part of its Airport Improvement Program, which is allocating almost $48 million to 28 airports across Colorado this year.
“Infrastructure projects funded by these grants will advance safety, improve travel, generate jobs and provide other economic benefits for local communities,” Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a news release.
As Routt County’s airport seeks to expand its flight services and bring more visitors to the area, it is also looking for ways to make operations more efficient.
Kevin Booth, the airport’s director, said most of the grant funds, about $1.6 million, will help pay for the addition of a new terminal. Once completed, it will allow an additional airline to offer flights and should improve the flow of passengers moving from the security check to their respective gates.
Booth expects the total cost of the new terminal to be about $2 million to $3 million. He and other airport officials are negotiating prices with a potential contractor.
“Our hope is we will find a mutually agreeable total cost to the project and move forward with it by the end of next week,” Booth said.
The remaining grant money will go toward snow removal equipment and maintenance work on the runways ahead of the upcoming winter season.
As Booth explained, each year, the airport receives federal funding based on its total number of passengers, which has stayed steady for the past four to five years.
So far this summer, passenger numbers have exceeded those from last year, with a 25% increase in passengers this June compared to last, according to Booth. This comes despite the loss of a direct flight to Houston, a casualty of a cut in funding to the city’s air program, which subsidizes flights to attract more visitors to the area.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Booth said, pointing to increased service to Denver as a possible reason for the spike in summer passenger numbers.
“I suspect that we are still getting probably the same number of Houston visitors,” he added. “They are just coming here with a stop in Denver on the way.”
Each year, the airport usually receives about $1.3 million in grant funding from the Department of Transportation, according to Booth. The extra money this year is coming from Aspen’s airport, which did not have a use for its grant money.
In the coming years, the Yampa Valley Regional Airport will reimburse Aspen’s airport.
“It’s not a gift,” Booth said. “It’s something we have to pay back, basically through a withhold (of grant funds) in subsequent years.”
Another development at the airport, the expansion of Atlantic Aviation’s fixed-base operator facilities, is on schedule for completion by October, according to Booth. The project is not associated with the airport, so it is not receiving any grant funds. It includes the construction of a terminal and apron space for planes to park.
In previous reporting, Booth said the project should allow more room for commercial flights to operate and improve safety by reducing congestion on the runway.