Airport project vaults ahead

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Construction on terminal expansion projects at Yampa Valley Regional Airport resumed this week, and the work already is a week ahead of schedule.

No sleight of hand was involved.

Airport manager David Ruppel said Thursday that after jet flights at YVRA concluded April 2, airport staff began readying the airport for construction crews.

"We began moving the gift shop right away and cleaned out the sky cap building (so it could be torn down). The plan is to push the envelope and move ahead. If the contractors are ready to go, we're ready to support them," Ruppel said.

Connell Resources, which is doing parking lot and aircraft parking ramp work, had heavy equipment operators still working at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

Connell's preparation for the terminal expansion involves removing old concrete and excavating to a depth of 4 feet so the foundation for the new building can be poured. When complete, the improvements will significantly expand passenger-holding areas where travelers wait to board their flights after passing security. The project also will make airport concessions more accessible to passengers.

Building contractor TCD isn't scheduled to begin work on above-ground terminal expansion until the first week in May, but Ruppel anticipates accelerating that schedule by a week.

"I'm very impressed with the way Connell and TCD are communicating and working together," Ruppel said.

Airport crews already have moved a security fence north to allow expansion of airport parking ramps. To accommodate the weight of the airlines' Boeing 757s, Connell will excavate the area and install a series of materials.

The ramp project was scheduled for completion in 2005, but it was held up by delays in receiving federal grants.

Connell also will install a second layer of asphalt on public parking lots and pave employee parking lots.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners got a shock in spring 2005 when Connell was the only bidder on the paving project and the original bid totalled $9.4 million. The estimate submitted by project engineers was $7.5 million.

Connell officials worked with county leaders to trim the gap, and the commissioners accepted the revised bid of $8.14 million. Subsequently, they found some relief when TCD's bid for the terminal building came in $562,000 under the $6.08 million budget.

The bulk of the cost is being borne by the federal government, but last summer's bidding process was stressful for the county.

Phase 3 of the project ultimately will add a second baggage carousel to the terminal, which may mean a more modern way of handling ski bags.

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