County commissioners take up Aspen airport terminal plan |

County commissioners take up Aspen airport terminal plan

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Courtesy of the Aspen-Pitkin County AirportThe "simple" terminal design for the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, with a grass-covered parking garage next to it, is favored by a citizen advisory group.

ASPEN – A design for a new Aspen-Pitkin County Airport terminal that, at a preliminary cost estimate of $121.8 million, is on the low end of the cost spectrum will go to county commissioners Tuesday as the preferred alternative among four options.

Commissioners, who last week reviewed proposals for airport facilities devoted primarily to private aviation, now are being asked to weigh in on alternatives for the commercial terminal. Rough cost estimates for each of the designs, prepared strictly for comparison’s sake, range from $98.4 million to $162.3 million.

On the low end is what’s dubbed the “simple” terminal design, favored by a county-appointed citizen advisory group. Its estimated price tag is $98.4 million with surface parking, or $121.8 million with a parking garage that consolidates various parking lots and provides additional spaces for future growth. The committee has recommended the garage, a subgrade structure with a grassy roof.

Two other building designs also will be presented for the commissioners’ consideration, plus an option to reuse the existing terminal with the addition of a new concourse – an alternative the elected officials previously requested be kept in the mix. Reuse of the old terminal means passenger disruption during construction and would cost some $128 million, including $9.1 million in major repairs to the existing building, consultants note.

Plans for the new terminal are part of a 20-year master plan for the airport that has been a work in progress for slightly more than a year, involving public open houses, meetings of the advisory group (the Airport Master Plan Study Committee) and check-ins with commissioners at each step. The plan will address virtually everything on the airport property except the recently lengthened runway and taxiway.

The master plan won’t include detailed architectural drawings for any of the facilities but will map out their location and ensure space is reserved for their potential future construction, according to Jim Elwood, aviation director at the airport.

While the simple terminal design with surface parking is the least costly alternative, it could require off-site parking and potential walking distances of more than a quarter-mile for airport users, according to the consulting team that has been at work refining the master plan. A “sea of asphalt” may result, they concluded.

All of the designs for the terminal building provide 80,000 square feet of space, which is nearly double the size of the existing terminal, plus 1,300 parking stalls, eight boarding gates and room to park 10 commercial aircraft outside. The existing terminal has five aircraft parking spots and four doors, or gates.

All of the options also accommodate a connection to a transit stop on Highway 82, where the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority plans to build a Bus Rapid Transit stop for beefed-up bus service.

The terminal and parking plans are designed to meet projected needs in 2017. Inside the building, more space is allocated for security, baggage and mechanical operations. The plans retain the outdoor experience of getting on and off a commercial flight in Aspen as well as curbside pickup and drop-off for the general public.

At peak periods, the terminal handles 35 flights per day. About 500,000 people per year pass through the building, according to the airport.

Based on commissioner input, the airport’s consulting team will begin preparing its recommendations for all of the airport facilities, including a more detailed financial analysis and proposed phasing of improvements. Those recommendations are expected to be ready for review in April.

The preliminary cost estimates prepared for Tuesday’s discussion don’t take into account federal and state funding for the improvements, potential private investment into the airport or a host of other financial considerations.

“We really don’t see there being any tax dollars in these numbers,” Elwood said. “We’re not going to go for an option that’s not financially feasible.”

The future improvements will be sized to fit the airport’s needs and be phased to reflect financial realities, he said.