Pitkin County candidates discuss plans for the airport | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County candidates discuss plans for the airport

ASPEN – Today, the four people seeking election to the Pitkin County commissioner seat in District 4 share their thoughts on plans for future facilities at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

The Aspen Times has posed a series of questions to the candidates in advance of the June 26 primary. Their answers will be published throughout this week, concluding on Friday.

Two candidates will advance from the primary to November’s general election. Though the candidates must reside within District 4, they are elected at large. Voters throughout the county may cast a vote for any one commissioner candidate on the primary ballot.

Today’s question: The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport master-plan update likely will have been adopted before you take office, but what elements of the draft plan as it now stands do you support or not support, and why?

Their responses:

The current terminal is clearly in need of replacing, largely due to its location seven feet below the level of the taxiway, which leads to flooding and the severe overcrowding brought on by the addition of Transportation Security Administration operations and the bunching of airplane departures and arrivals.

A terminal of about 60,000 square feet, built where the proposed space is just east of the existing terminal, would be very comfortable and functional. The building should be designed to fit into the character and scale that the Aspen community desires to maintain, with a possible expansion in mind for the future, if the need arises.

Any additional fixed-based operator, or FBO, facilities should be accommodated on the east side of the airport if possible to keep all the development clustered near the highway transportation corridor. The plan for rearranging the FBO facilities to accommodate more parked private aircraft is good.

I favor a surface parking lot for cars, coupled with a real good interface with public transportation to encourage people to not use cars when coming to and from the airport.

Our airport is our portal to and from the world and a hub to and from our communities and our four mountain economies. The importance of its contribution to our valley would be difficult to overstate now and in the future.

The current phase of planning maps out options for the physical layout and sizing parameters of its major features to include improved ground transportation, expanded commercial airline passenger terminal operations, and general aviation upgrades to include a second fixed base operation on the west side of the runway.

Our planning is driven by concerns for safety, improved capacity based on rational projections of future demands and efficiency of operations to maximize service delivery while promoting energy and environmental savings. All this must be done within extremely tight constraints of geography and community. I strongly support their effort and methods.

There is an obvious need for some sort of redevelopment at the airport. Between the internal TSA security area, baggage claim, traffic circulation connection to Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, there needs to be a redesign of the airport and terminal.

The idea of a plan is to look at what the maximum potential can be for the airport. That does not mean that it could be or should be developed to the maximum extent.

I participated in several of the design charrettes and agree with the recommendations from the plan. I would support the phasing of rebuilding of the terminal. I would support starting a new building similar in size to the current building. The cost to remodel would be more than new construction. The cost of rebuilding would be paid for by airport funding sources, not using taxpayer dollars.

Redesigning the airport is necessary to meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards, security standards and general more efficiency in handling passengers and baggage.

I think the commissioners and Jim Elwood have done a good job reaching out to our community, and by Michael Owsley’s, count there have been 49 meetings on the airport to date. The area where they have hit a nerve is in the possibility of allowing the terminal to grow to 80,000 square feet. Almost everyone I have talked to believes that is fundamentally excessive.

I agree that the security, baggage, passenger waiting, rest rooms and food service are all areas that need improvement. The ramp space is also crowed with aircraft in peak times. These can be accommodated in an efficiently planned building in far less than 80,000 square feet.

My vision would include an “energy neutral” building that could showcase to the world that there is a far better way to build than most communities embrace. I would encourage Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute staff, along with the skiing company’s senior executives, to participate in the creation of a building that demonstrates the state-of-the-future technologies that can be used today. Colorado water law is archaic in that it makes recycling water very difficult to achieve. That being said, I believe we need to make an honest attempt to make that happen in this building.

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