County seeks input on airport options | AspenTimes.com

County seeks input on airport options

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is heading into a decade of changes, with plans being discussed to upgrade the terminal, add a second fixed-base operator and address the possibility of widening the runway to accommodate a new, more efficient fleet of jets that will have wider wingspans than the current fleet.

The county is now in Phase 3 of its Future Air Service Planning Study and is actively seeking public comment on the direction it should take with the airport. The main purpose of the study is to identify two to four viable options for improving the infrastructure at the airport with the intention of preserving commercial air service in the future.

Once the layout plan is finalized, which the county hopes to have done by June or July, the airport can begin an environmental assessment on the proposed changes.

The county will hold two open-house meetings that are open to anyone to further the public discussion about the proposed airport options. The first meeting is today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Pitkin County Library. The second open house is scheduled for Nov. 11 at the Airport Operations Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

"We'll have consultants available at both meetings for the public to speak with," said Pat Bingham, Pitkin County community relations specialist. "We're also hoping to have aircraft representatives at the November open house that can address concerns about the new fleet of jets that will be replacing the old ones that are being phased out during the next decade."

As another way to help the public understand the airport issues, the county prepared a five-minute video available on YouTube titled "Air Service Study: Flight Plan for Our Community" that discusses the airport and the air-service study.

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The county also started an online engagement forum this week at http://www.pitkincounty connect.com. The county describes the site as an online forum for civic engagement. The first question on the forum reads, "How important is it for the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport to continue to offer commercial airline service to our community?"

When a person posts for the first time, the site will ask for a name and home address. This confidential information is only used to identify statements from residents in and near Pitkin County so that users know which statements are from local residents. The site also states that comments posted will be considered by the county in its decision-making process.

"This site allows people to comment from anywhere," Bingham said. "It's a great way to stay connected with our community even if you're out of town. We have a large population of second-home owners that can now stay in touch and participate with local issues, even when they're outside of Aspen."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com

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