Steamboat Springs The much-anticipated expansion of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport terminal is scheduled to serve its first departing passengers Thursday. Travelers leaving the Yampa Valley on four airlines will check in at new ticket counters.
"(Tuesday) was the kickoff for us in terms of getting people in there and getting mobilized and getting ready," airport manager David Ruppel told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
Ruppel expects four of the five commercial airlines serving the airport to be in the new expansion by Thursday. A fifth, Continental Airlines, is waiting for new equipment to arrive before making the switch, he said.
Airport officials had hoped the new terminal addition would be ready for the beginning of direct ski season flights on Dec. 5, 2006. However, unanticipated challenges put it behind schedule. That was in spite of long shifts worked by employees of the general contractor, TCD, last fall.
The newly expanded passenger check-in area is actually the second phase of a three-phase project. Phase 2 suffered a setback in late-summer 2005 when federal grants arrived late. That delayed the completion of an expanded aircraft parking ramp, which in turn overlapped with construction of the terminal addition.
The project was further delayed last fall by issues related to the subsoil under the project.
The county's contract with Connell Resources for the expanded airport parking ramp was $8.14 million, and the contract with TCD was for about $5.5 million. Much of the cost is being paid by the federal government.
Residents of the Yampa Valley headed to the airport to catch a flight late this week will be more focused on the completed improvements than they are on the delays. They won't see any changes in the streamlined parking and traffic flow that debuted in autumn 2006, except that they'll be able to park closer to the entry doors for departing passengers, county officials said.
"The first thing they'll hit will be the new skycap stand," Commissioner Doug Monger said. "It will be easier to walk right up to it."
Upon arrival at the airport, they'll find passenger space in the terminal doubled with the addition of 23,500 square feet. Along with a new check-in area, the airport has added aircraft parking that can handle Boeing 757s. The expansion also means that, for the first time, the airport will offer snack bar seating on the terminal's main level.
Within two weeks, Ruppel said, crews will finish tearing out the old ticket counters and put together an interim plan to expand the luggage claim area at the airport. A baggage belt currently used to ferry the bags of departing passengers to the ramp will be reversed. That will allow airport workers to use it as an additional baggage claim area, Ruppel said. Ultimately, the space will be used for a permanent addition to baggage claim, including an additional carousel. But that project, representing Phase 3 of the terminal expansion, is at least two years off.
County Manager Tom Sullivan confirmed Tuesday attorneys for the county and TCD will meet Feb. 19 to negotiate an adjustment in the contract for TCD based on the delayed completion of the terminal expansion. The contract had a penalty clause calling for a deduction of $500 for every day the building was behind schedule.
Monger said "claims" are being made on behalf of both parties.
"We're working through it," he said.
Construction crews worked overtime to make the airport ready to receive the first flights of ski season.
Sullivan said TCD put forth a lot of effort and expressed his satisfaction with the completed building.
"Their product is a good product," he said.
Ruppel also thanked community volunteers who came to the airport and helped temporary airport workers greet arriving passengers and direct them through the airport while construction continued.
Airport officials plan to host a grand opening of the terminal expansion next month.
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