Funding OK’d for airport environmental study |

Funding OK’d for airport environmental study

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Staying true to the timeline the airport released in August, an environmental assessment of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport’s east terminal area will begin by the start of 2015.

On Tuesday, the Pitkin County commissioners approved the use of roughly $300,000 in airport enterprise funds to complete the $4.7 million budget that will be used to produce an environmental assessment on the east side of the airport.

The 2012 airport master plan identified a new terminal building as the most economical way to attract and maintain commercial air service. Airport studies determined that improving safety and efficiency of the terminal building, along with the entire east side of the airport, will allow the airport to attract competitive air service while providing a sustainable economic base for the Aspen community.

Before any designs or construction can move forward, the Federal Aviation Administration requires an environmental assessment of the terminal area. In August, the commissioners approved an ordinance accepting grant offers from the FAA and the state to fund the assessment of the east terminal area.

The Airport Improvement Program FAA Grant of $4.4 million will cover 90 percent of the assessment costs. The other 10 percent will come from the Colorado Discretionary Aviation Grant Program adding $172,365 and the airport contributing $299,858 in enterprise funds to reach the anticipated budget of about $4.7 million.

“The environmental assessment will cover the east side of the airport,” said Brian Grefe, an assistant aviation director at the airport. “That includes the terminal area, fixed-base operator redevelopment on the east side, parking and the associated infrastructure. An environmental assessment has to be run by a federal entity, which will be the FAA, with most of the legwork done by the airport contractor, Mead & Hunt Architectural and Engineering Firm.”

According to the FAA, an environmental assessment is a concise public document that briefly provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental-impact statement or a finding of no significant impact. An assessment must include brief discussions of the need for proposed action, alternatives to the proposed action and the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action and alternatives.

“It’s a federally defined, very thorough process,” Grefe said. “It looks at the social, environmental and fiscal abilities to do this project. The assessment will likely take around two years to complete. We’re planning a lot of community outreach and to discuss a lot of options to make sure we’re moving forward in accordance with community values and expectations. Ultimately, after 18 months to two years, we’ll develop a plan that has roughly 25 percent design of that terminal area. Hopefully, we’ll also have a determination from the FAA of a finding of no significant impact.”

The FAA will send the grant in two parts, with $1.1 million already received by the airport and an additional $3.1 million coming around June or July.

Grefe said part of the initial $1.1 million would be used to begin public outreach on all work being planned for the east side of the airport, with the anticipated focus mostly on the terminal and parking. The additional FAA funds will go toward completing the assessment. Grefe said he hopes to have a thorough public timeline for the assessment completed soon.

If things move forward as anticipated in the next two years, the next step would be to complete the terminal design and open the project up for bids, with construction following that process. The east-side fixed-base operator, parking area and other construction needs will be addressed after the terminal design.

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