Input committee for Aspen airport expansion takes flight
Some 30 local residents began participation this week in the first of a series of meetings aimed at gathering feedback for the possible redevelopment of the east-side terminal area of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
The meeting of the Community Input Committee comes in advance of the environmental assessment that will be conducted before development on the airport’s east side begins. The development is subject to approval from Pitkin County commissioners.
The airport’s 2012 master plan for the east side calls for a new terminal transit center and ancillary automobile parking, roadway and apron improvements, the relocation of the fixed-base operation, a noise wall and other improvements.
The environmental assessment, which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, would look at potential environmental impacts and include alternatives.
On Tuesday, airport Director John Kinney and two representatives from national design and architecture firm Mead & Hunt apprised Pitkin County commissioners of Monday’s meeting of the input committee, a cross-section of civic leaders, residents, business and homeowner groups.
The committee eyed four aspects of the east-side redesign: sense of place, sustainability, neighborhood compatibility and passenger experience.
The common thread among the committee’s input was having Aspen’s small-town character be a primary influence on the airport upgrade. Keeping the airport simple and accessible also was mentioned.
Kate Andrus, project manager at Mead & Hunt, said one of the common sentiments among the committee was balancing the efficiency of the airport with “being a good neighbor.”
Getting more public input is essential, she said.
“We really feel we need to do further outreach,” Andrus said.
Ryk Dunkelberg, also of Mead & Hunt, said travelers’ experiences at the airport also will factor in to the east-side design.
“The challenge is to make it a memorable experience and make the passengers comfortable when those things do happen,” Dunkelberg said in response to Commissioner Steve Child’s remark that a bad travel episode can define a guest’s vacation.
The west side of the airport also will require a separate environmental assessment.
Each assessment would take 18 to 25 months and would review a number of potential impacts on the airport, from noise, safety and socioeconomic concerns, environmental effects and other possible consequences.
More than 80 public meetings have been held about the airport expansion over the years.
“I think some of the public don’t realize how much input from the public has gone into this process,” noted Commissioner Michael Owsley.
Proponents of the airport expansion said the facility needs to be modernized. They also are concerned about the phasing out of the Bombardier-made CRJ700 regional jets, which account for 95 percent of the airport’s commercial flights. Those aircraft will be retired starting in 2018, meaning the airport must be upgraded and improved to accommodate larger aircraft with wingspans of as much as 118 feet, expansion advocates said. Currently the airport has wingspan limitations of 95 feet.
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