Yampa Valley Regional Airport summer construction set

2nd baggage carousel won’t be operational until winter 2011-12

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— Construction is expected to begin this summer on the third phase of terminal expansion at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, but a new, second baggage carousel won’t be ready in time for next ski season.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said Monday that the timetable already is growing too tight to undertake the carousel portion of the two-year project this summer and feel confident it will be completed in time to greet ski-season jets in December.

“We realized we couldn’t expect a contractor to complete that portion without creating an impact on winter operations,” Ruppel said during his regular weekly meeting with the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

As of the third week in January county officials still were planning on delivering the new carousel for the 2010-2011 ski season. But Ruppel said this week that bid packets wouldn’t go out until April.

Engineering drawings are currently 40 percent complete, Ruppel said, and he hopes they reach 75 percent by the end of the week so that they can be submitted to the FAA within two weeks.

The estimated cost of the Phase 3 expansion of the airport terminal is $6.83 million. The 2010 phase of the work is expected to total $3.6 million to $3.8 million pending competitive bidding. However, as of this week, Congress has approved less than half that amount. The county learned this week that it had been approved for nearly $1.5 million in federal grants toward that total. The county’s 5 percent match of the total amount is expected to be about $342,000, all of it coming from airport revenues. Ultimately, more local airport revenues than that could be used to complete the work.

Commissioner Doug Monger said he and his fellow commissioners in­­tend to move forward with the second portion of the work next year and will use their 2011 round of Federal Aviation Administration grants to complete the work.

The new carousel would be built in an open space just outside the current carousel area where the overflow of arriving passengers circulate until it’s their turn at the carousel. Ruppel said his staff can make it through another winter without the new carousel, but if they were forced to wall off the unfinished construction area, losing the open space would be a greater hardship.

Yampa Valley Airport Commission member and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. President and CEO Chris Diamond said he initially was concerned about deferring the carousel construction but after sitting down with Ruppel and the project architect, he was persuaded it was the best path to follow.

“The carousel is our biggest need in terms of service at the airport,” Diamond said, “but (putting it off another year) makes all the sense in the world in terms of cost and construction phasing.”

Construction this summer will focus on enclosing a cut-out on the north perimeter of the terminal. That will create additional space for passengers waiting for security screening, and bring the restaurant downstairs from its current second-floor location.

Tackling the carousel phase of the project in spring 2011 with the contractor and construction drawings in place will result in a better completed project, Ruppel said.

“Yes, we need the carousel, it’s a key component,” Ruppel said. “We don’t have nearly the baggage capacity that we should have. But we still plan to complete the entire project within the original timeframe. And when it’s done, we’ll have a facility that will make it easier for passengers to use and feel like it’s supposed to work.”

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