Our View: An investment for YVRA | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: An investment for YVRA

Yampa Valley Regional Airport is entering the 21st century.

On Tuesday, the Routt County commissioners signed off on a new electronic parking system at the airport. Even at a cost of $240,000 for the equipment, software and installation, the system is a bargain. It will allow the county to finally adequately charge for parking and ensure that everyone pays equally.

The parking system will be similar to those at other airports. Travelers must take a ticket to enter the lot. Upon their return, travelers will present the ticket inside the airport and pay the appropriate fee to exit the lot. Travelers also may use a credit card at the lot’s exit to pay the appropriate fee.

This is a far better system than what the airport has had. In the past, parking at the airport has been on the honor system. Travelers were required to put cash or a check in an envelope and put the envelope in a cluster box in the lot. Travelers had to estimate how many days they would be parked at the site and pay the fee.

The system was confusing, and many travelers were not aware that the parking fee existed or ignored it altogether.

Also, if a traveler cut a trip short and wound up parking less time than estimated, it sometimes took weeks to process the traveler’s parking refund. Because the new system will allow a traveler to pay at the end of the trip, refunds no longer will be a problem.

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The parking system is but a small part of the second of a three-phase airport improvement project. Phase 1 of those improvements was a terminal expansion that was completed last year and created additional room for security, baggage and ticketing.

The second phase includes paved parking, an expansion of the airport apron and a 23,500-square-foot terminal addition. The cost of the second phase is $13.5 million, about $11 million of which is being paid for with Federal Aviation Administration funds.

The terminal addition won’t begin until next May, but the paving of the parking lot and the installation of the new parking system are expected to be complete by Dec. 1, before ski season jet flights start at the airport.

The paved parking lot will be a welcome sight for travelers. For years, travelers have had to endure gravel parking lots and a confusing array of concrete barricades. The parking area made a less-than-desirable first impression on new visitors.

The parking lot construction work that has gone on for the past few months has only intensified the problem. But the payoff is only weeks away — a paved lot with electronic parking and curbs and gutters.

Steamboat Springs is a destination ski resort that relies on air travel to bring new and repeat visitors here. As such, Yampa Valley Regional Airport is as critical to our economy as any piece of infrastructure we have. It’s nice to see the airport finally getting the facelift it has so sorely needed all these years. The price tag for that facelift isn’t cheap; still, we think it’s an investment the county will never regret making.