Steamboat Springs Jim Parker said Tuesday his airport's current appearance doesn't give the impression it will be ready when the big jets start flying Dec. 12. However, he's confident a pair of construction projects in the main terminal at Yampa Valley Regional Airport will be wrapped up in time for the arrival of the season's second major burst of winter tourism.
"Sometimes I look at it, scratch my head and say, 'Are we going to be able to do this?'" Parker said. "But we talk to the contractors every day and they're still on schedule. It's a project that can be done and I'm positive we'll get it done."
The work under way at YVRA includes a $100,000 expansion of the ticket counter to give Continental Airlines additional check-in stations. The second is a $93,500 alteration to the ticketing lobby and skycap building to accommodate federally mandated screening stations for checked luggage.
The cost of the first project will initially be borne by Routt County, but Parker said the Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of surcharges collected form airline passengers to fund the project. He anticipates about a 90 percent reimbursement. The county will also realize increased revenues from its contract with Continental.
Parker said the airline needed the additional space because many days this winter it will operate daily roundtrips between YVRA and Newark in addition to daily flights from Houston.
The project wasn't begun until Nov. 7, Parker said, and general contractor TCD in Steamboat Springs is working its employees on long shifts to compress what would normally be a 45- to 75-day project into 30 days. The rush accounts in part for the hefty price tag on a project, he said. The work entails adding 14 feet to the ticket counter, removing some walls to build a new electrical/communications room on the outside of the terminal and rebuilding ticket counters for American Airlines.
Although Parker believes TCD will complete the project just in time for the first jet flights, he's less certain American will be able to conduct its scheduled ticket agent training session on Dec. 2.
The construction was delayed, Parker said, while both the county and Continental waited to receive confirmation from the FAA on the applicability of passenger facility charges, or PFCs, to the project. Without them, the county intended to bill the cost of the work to Continental.
The cost of the second construction project will be borne by the federal Transportation Safety Administration. That agency mandated screening of checked luggage for explosives by the end of the year. It contracted with Boeing to implement the screening system at individual airports. Boeing contracted with Turner Construction to alter the terminal at YVRA to accommodate up to eight devices called "ETDs."
As many as five will be installed in the main ticket lobby and three more will be installed in the skycap building, where some arriving passengers check their luggage.
Alterations necessary to make room for the ETDs should be complete by the middle of next week, Parker said.
ETD stands for "explosives trace detection." The machines are 42 inches wide and 8 feet long.
Federal employees working at YVRA this winter will wipe or swab the zipper and handle of all pieces of luggage with a patch of cloth. The cloth is then placed in the ETD, which can quickly discern if there is any trace of explosives on the luggage.
"Each bag only takes about five seconds," Parker said. "But if an alarm sounds, that calls for a dump search (of the offending luggage)."
Installation of the ETDs will eliminate much of the space where departing passengers formerly stood in line to check their luggage. Parker said he is still refining quotes to obtain a large heated tent that would be placed immediately outside of the terminal to shelter passengers arriving to board flights home. Parker said his goal is to install the tent by Dec. 12.
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