Yampa Valley Regional Airport is preparing for construction

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— Passengers traveling through Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden in spring and summer will get a sneak peek at the new airport restaurant.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel told the Yampa Valley Airport Commission on Thursday night that pedestrians walking from the ticketing area to the ground transportation desks would be routed along the north-facing windows in the newly expanded restaurant area even as construction workers finish the interior of the dining room.

“They may actually have to walk outside and around to get to the baggage carousels,” Ruppel said Friday. “Tile and carpet work in this area will not be completed until summer. Nearly half of the terminal now is included in the construction area, allowing Holmquist Lorenz Construction Co. the best opportunity to reach completion by the Nov. 19 project end date.”

The inconvenience for people traversing the airport terminal will allow interior demolition to begin Monday where the original ticketing area at the airport will be converted to a new baggage carousel devoted primarily to commuter flights, Ruppel said.

For the past two winters, large planeloads of passengers arriving at gates five and six on the west side of the terminal have had to snake through a maze of corridors to get to the congested baggage claim area. When construction work on Phase 3 of the YVRA terminal improvements wraps up late this year, pedestrian routes will have improved, Ruppel said.

“It will make a lot more sense to arriving passengers,” he promised.

Ruppel said United Express service between Denver and YVRA has dropped to two flights a day since the ski area closed Sunday and will bounce up to four flights early in June.

Passenger tallies maintained by the airport show that passenger traffic during the heart of the 2010-11 ski season was off about 5,000 compared with 2009-10.

Looking only at passenger arrivals from December through March, the airport welcomed 80,904 arrivals, compared with 85,754 for a similar period in winter 2009-10.

“I look at it being essentially flat, when all things are considered,” Ruppel said. “We felt load factors were pretty good.”

Total ski season passenger numbers have yet to be finalized.

Resort officials had predicted in early December that arriving passengers would be down because of a 14 percent reduction in the number of airline seats committed to the destination.

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