Our View: Keep moving forward in tough times | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Keep moving forward in tough times

Yampa Valley Regional Airport has come a long way throughout the past decade. With the finish line now in sight, it's encouraging to see Routt County and airport officials making a push to complete the final phase of improvements.

On Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners threw its support behind a federal grant application that would provide the bulk of the funding for phase 3 of improvements at YVRA in Hayden. The project, with an estimated price tag of $6.8 million, includes the construction of a two-story building that would replace the space between the existing security checkpoint area and the baggage claim area. The new building would feature a second baggage carousel on the ground level and offices and a conference room on the second level.

Also part of phase 3 is the construction of a two-story foyer at the front of the airport. This part of the project would include a reworked security checkpoint and an expanded passenger concourse.

There's no doubt such improvements are needed. Both the baggage claim and security checkpoint areas are prone to overcrowding, particularly during the ski season. A space better designed for passenger flow and baggage-handling services should alleviate what often can be long waits for arriving passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration grant, if received, will cover more than $6.2 million of the total cost of phase 3. The county expects another $250,000 in grant funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation, leaving less than $350,000, or about 5 percent of the total project cost, to Routt County. And because the airport now operates in the black, the county's 5 percent match would come from airport revenues, not county sales tax revenues.

Depending on the grant approval process, some of the phase 3 work could begin as soon as this summer, and there's a chance the second baggage carousel could be operating in time for the 2010-11 ski season. That's great news not only for travelers, but for all of Routt County and the Yampa Valley. YVRA plays a vital role in our local economy, and it's often the first and last thing visitors experience on their trips to Steamboat Springs. A pleasurable travel experience is an important part of any vacation and can be a deciding factor in whether guests decide to return for future trips.

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The first two phases of YVRA improvements have made a tremendous impact on the overall travel experience here. We're optimistic that the third and final phase will complete the transformation from a dated rural airport to one that offers modern amenities and convenience to travelers.