Aspen airport officials want to go underground with garage |

Aspen airport officials want to go underground with garage

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen-Pitkin County Airport officials say they’ve spent about $56 million on airport improvements over the past six years or so, and that they are hoping to spend some $80 million more in the next four years.

That would include roughly $40 million to build an underground parking garage as part of a broad airport improvements master plan, airport director Jim Elwood told the Pitkin County commissioners in a budget meeting Tuesday.

Much of the money for the projects would come from federal sources, Elwood said, and none of it will be spent until the public has had a chance to weigh in during a series of public meetings.

Commissioners gave their conceptual nod to the airport’s budget for 2009, which features revenues of nearly $9.9 million and expenditures of approximately $9.5 million.

Elwood and Dave Ulane, the airport’s assistant director, told the commissioners that the airport has projected a possible reduction in general aviation activity, meaning flights by private aircraft, of as much as 10 percent in the coming year due to the ongoing economic slump.

But, Ulane said, information from the airlines that fly into Aspen so far indicates that there will be 13 percent more seats available, and 6 percent more flights in 2009, compared to 2008.

Ulane said the airport is planning about $4 million in capital projects in 2009, including an update of the master plan for the airport’s future improvements ($1.3 million) and planning for redevelopment of the existing terminal building ($1.75 million).

As far as the future, the budget calls for a runway and taxiway extension in 2010, at a cost of $21 million, as well as $5 million in design work on terminal redevelopment and $2.5 million in hydroelectric and other water-related work to take advantage of the airport’s water rights.

“We feel there’s some opportunity of doing some micro-hydro plants” using the property’s water rights, said Elwood, which would go hand in hand with the airport’s other environmental plans, such as a greenhouse gases mitigation project.

County Commissioner Rachel Richards said that $5 million for the terminal design work seems “a high amount” for what she termed “soft costs” associated with the terminal redevelopment, which she said “usually comes to 10 or 20 percent” of the overall project cost.

Elwood responded that the overall project is estimated to cost up to $80 million, including the cost of the underground parking garage to replace the airport’s current surface parking spaces.

The estimates for the garage, currently at around $40 million, may change as the airport seeks “partnerships” to share the costs, he said. He mentioned the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which might need parking for its bus riders, and the nearby Aspen Business Center, which is due for a redesign of its internal roads system and might need satellite parking spaces as a result.

The airport management also is planning to spend approximately $450,000 to study its affordable housing needs and the possibility of building that housing on the airport grounds.

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