Report: Keep airport open

City, county officials to discuss airport commission report

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A report prepared and completed by the Yampa Valley Airport Commission shows Steamboat Springs Airport should remain open, the commission's chairman said.

"Overall, it appears that there is no economic, social or safety justification to consider closing Bob Adams and consolidating all aeronautical activity at (Yampa Valley Regional Airport)," commission chairman Marty Kolonel wrote in a cover letter attached to the report. "In fact, it appears that the risks of doing so far outweigh any benefits."

The report is to be discussed Wednesday at a joint meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners. The meeting will be at noon in Centennial Hall.

Kolonel said in his letter that the report is "self-explanatory" and that there is no need for a formal presentation. However, members of the Airport Commission will be available to answer questions at Wednesday's meeting.

Kolonel said the commission planned to release the report to the public after Wednesday's meeting. However, county officials gave copies of the report to members of the media Friday.

Before the report was undertaken, the commission stated its belief that the Yampa Valley is best served by two airports, with Steamboat Springs Airport-Bob Adams Field serving general aviation and Yampa Valley Regional Airport serving commercial traffic. The commission launched the report, conducted by commission member Joe McNasby, in the wake of criticism of the Steamboat Springs Airport.

The report is 100 pages long and includes 10 exhibits.

The report states that "it does not make economic sense" to close the airport. The report estimates it would cost the city more than $18 million to close the airport initially and then more than $4 million a year annually. Those costs include reimbursing the Federal Aviation Administration millions in federal grants and spending nearly $5 million to buy out hangar contracts at the airport.

The report includes a 2002 Colorado Department of Transportation study that estimates the airport has an annual economic impact of $7.5 million that would be lost if it were to close.

The report states that the airport contributes to the social fabric of the community in specific ways that include serving as a base for the Yampa Valley Air Ambulance Service, firefighting crews and the Civil Air Patrol. The facility also is a venue for community events.

The report notes that the FAA has no safety concerns about the Steamboat Springs Airport and that individuals who question the safety of the airport "are merely expressing personal opinions."

The report states that the two-airport model is safer than allowing all traffic to be consolidated in Hayden.

"Smaller airports eliminate congestion at the larger airports," the report states. "This improves safety, as well as timely departures and arrivals. Customer service at YVRA is critical to the valley's ability to compete for tourists."

The report states that recent area plane crashes should not raise safety concerns about the Steamboat Airport, particularly because none of the crashes occurred at the airport.

"Some have pointed out that there have been a couple of crashes in the area and that these planes had taken off from the Steamboat Airport," the report reads. "These situations are, in fact, irrelevant to Bob Adams. These aircraft could just as easily have taken off from Hayden, Craig, Meeker, etc.

"If a car leaves Steamboat and crashes on I-70, would we blame it on Steamboat and infer that Steamboat is a dangerous place to go? Why then is this same logic applied to Steamboat Airport?"

The report includes letters from insurance companies stating that proximity to an airport has no bearing on homeowners insurance. Critics of the Steamboat Springs Airport have said those who live in the Steamboat Springs Airport's flight zone could have difficulty getting insurance and may be forced to pay higher rates.

The report states it is disconcerting that the community doesn't fully understand the benefits of the airport.

"The Yampa Valley Airport Commission views the two airports as compatible assets that maximize the overall benefit to the community. There appears to be a need to educate the public on why it holds this opinion."

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