YVRA capital improvements may be delayed

Airport must pay for new passenger, baggage screening equipment


— Perhaps no other entity in Routt County has been affected more by Sept. 11 than the county's only commercial airport.

In the past year, Yampa Valley Regional Airport has shut down, brought in the National Guard, changed its parking arrangements and hired a security company, all because of Sept. 11. And the airport may have to postpone long-planned capital improvements to pay for new equipment to screen passengers and baggage.

"There was a lot of speculation during those first few days," Airport Director Jim Parker said. "The steps that have been taken are necessary to tighten security."

Like other smaller airports in the country, YVRA has gone through a series of changes throughout the year. But Parker said the airport has not been asked to do anything different on the day of the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Most recently, the airport has hired a security company to man the screening station during incoming and outgoing flights. This week, Parker is meeting with the recently formed Transportation Security Administration to see what changes have to be made for luggage screeners and the passenger checkpoint area.

Parker's fear is that while the federal government likely will pay for the security equipment, funding for other improvements will be cut. The airport hopes to upgrade its runways but needs federal funds to do so.

Some security improvements are already in place.

YVRA was shut down for three days last year following the Sept. 11 attacks. Before the airport could reopen, its parking lot had to be reconfigured so no cars could park within 300 feet of the airport terminal. The passenger drop-off and pick-up areas had to be move more than 150 feet from the terminal.

When the airport opened again Sept. 14, Routt County Sheriff's officers were used to man screening stations. National Guardsmen also were stationed at the airport. The airport had two sheriff's officers on duty for most the winter. That was reduced to one during the summer months.

Parker said Sept. 11 did little to discourage people from flying into YVRA.

"Overall, there is not a big decline in the number of passengers," Parker said.

Matt Grow, airport manager at the general aviation Steamboat Springs Airport, said he believes Sept. 11 has driven interest in charter planes.

He points to fuel sales, which have seen a 20 percent increase since the beginning of the year. Fuel for planes fighting the nearby forest fires and a summer gliding competition have added to the sharp jump. But in October and November, jet fuel, which is used for charter planes, had a more than 100 percent increase in sales and January, March and April saw double-digit increases.

Other than the increase in charter business, Grow said Sept. 11 has not yet had a significant impact at the Steamboat airport. But he believes general aviation soon will be asked to comply with more stringent security requirements.


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