Long-term vision for airport unveiled | AspenTimes.com

Long-term vision for airport unveiled

Eben Harrell and Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writers

The director of the Pitkin County airport and members of the business community were in agreement Wednesday that expanding the runway is a crucial component of the facilitys 20-year master plan.The recommendations of the master plan, which was unveiled at yesterdays meeting, include a runway extension to improve airline safety and draw more carriers and a new concourse to relieve congestion at security points. The plan also recommends using a portion of land on the airports west side for possible aviation development.An advisory committee comprised of local business people, citizens and county and city officials spent five months drafting the plan.At Wednesdays meeting, airport director Jim Elwood explained the impact that the master plan would have on tourism, sight and noise pollution, and passenger safety.He argued that increased capacity at the airport would boost tourism by attracting carriers from around the United States. The runway expansion would make it safer for planes to land and take off, he said, and therefore would hopefully attract other airlines to the area.Elwood tried to dispel the notion that the runway expansion would mean larger, louder planes flying in and out.He displayed computer models predicting noise levels will be safely below federal guidelines in surrounding neighborhoods. Noise pollution has particularly concerned residents of the North 40, a subdivision adjacent to the airport.Hana Pevny, Aspen Chamber Resort Association president, said ACRAs member businesses strongly support the proposed master plan.Weve asked our membership about that in recent surveys, and from a business standpoint, ACRA supports the master plan for the long-term sustainability of the community as a tourist destination, Pevny said.Regarding another of the plans goals, Elwood said expanding the terminal would make working conditions for airport staff much safer and less cramped.No taxpayer money would go into the project, he added, since federal monies and an airport user fee will fund the master plan.I thought it was a very positive meeting. Ive been here for 20 years, so obviously its a concern to me to be looking at the next 20 years as well, said Beth Hagerty, general manager of the Aspen Mountain Lodge. In terms of our guests, its always been somewhat difficult getting in and out of Aspen, and pricey. So I think that any competition would benefit the travelers.Hagerty sat through the presentation Wednesday morning and said she also liked learning that local taxpayer dollars wont be used. Thats obviously a bonus for the residents of Aspen, she said.Throughout the presentation, Elwood emphasized that the master plan is only a provisional sketch and, if adopted, would require approval at almost every stage of implementation. He also urged the public to get involved in the coming weeks. The master plan goes before the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning board on Feb. 12, with a second reading on March 2.”This is the time to get involved, Elwood said. Were going to get what we are going to get in the next 60 days. If you are concerned, or if you have strong feelings either way, now is the time to write e-mails to the P & Z board.A copy of the master plan will be posted on the airports Web site, http://www.aspenairport.com, within the next week.[Naomi Havlens e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com; Eben Harrells e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]

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