Up in the air

Airport expansion continues as ski season deadline looms

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Courtesy art

An artist rendering shows the terminal addition at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

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Courtesy art

An artist rendering shows the interior of the terminal addition at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

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Work continues on the new terminal addition Wednesday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

— Additional parking for vehicles, as well as Boeing-757 aircraft, means the Yampa Valley Regional Airport maintenance staff will have more snow to plow.

No need to fear. The airport recently took delivery of a new grader with a wing attachment that should make clearing the additional snow more manageable.

There are two more new pieces of equipment on the way to assist staff with managing a bigger airport.

The second phase of a three-phase expansion project continues at the airport, and workers have put in long hours to keep the project on schedule. In a few months, jets will start bringing in travelers headed for Steamboat's ski slopes.

"Our terminal is coming along," said Ann Copeland, YVRA manager of landside and terminal operations.

The first phase of the airport expansion included a 4,300-square-foot expansion of the northeast end of the terminal for check-in and baggage screening. Construction started in summer 2003, and the addition eliminated the need for a heated tent where passengers lined up and baggage was screened. The cost was $832,000 with federal funds paying for about 90 percent of that price.

The goal of the ongoing second phase is to double the size of the existing terminal in time for the ski season jet flights. When complete, the additional 23,500 square feet will be used to create significantly larger passenger areas, new ticket counters and a snack bar seating area on the same level as passenger waiting areas at the county-owned airport. The phase, which costs $16 million, also includes the expanded aircraft parking aprons that can handle heavy Boeing 757 aircraft.

Federal funds also are paying for a majority of the second-phase improvements. Construction work on the parking areas and apron is expected to be completed later this month.

Construction of the third phase is not expected to start until 2009 and will include expanding the baggage claim area.

"It's still kind of in the planning stage for Phase 3," Copeland said. "The old ticket counter will be taken out, and we'll be opening up the baggage service area."

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel recently compiled a report on the status of the Phase 2 construction. The roof is nearly completed on the terminal building, and the masonry brick walls are being completed. It's hard for airport officials to tell whether they are on schedule.

"Until we get it closed up and see where we are at, we really don't know," Copeland said.

Airport officials are working closely with contractors to ensure the essential areas are completed by the peak of ski season.

If fall bookings are any sign, this could be an even busier ski season at the airport. Fall bookings are up 5 percent compared with last year. Fare specials include a $238 round trip to Western destinations, such as Las Vegas and Phoenix. Tickets to Eastern destinations, such as Atlanta and Texas, are as low as $308.

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