Winter nixes Aspen airport’s cell phone lot until spring |

Winter nixes Aspen airport’s cell phone lot until spring

An official cellphone parking lot at Aspen’s airport will have to wait until spring thanks to the early advent of winter this season, officials said Thursday.

However, airport officials have asked the architecture firm in charge of designing the lot for ideas on how to utilize the space this winter for those waiting to pick up ski season visitors, said Matt Whitelock, the airport’s director of security for landside operations.

“The goal is to have (a temporary cellphone lot) before the Thanksgiving holiday,” Whitelock said.

The cellphone lot will be located within the frontage road that runs in front of the airport next to Highway 82 and will occupy both sides of a landscaped island, he said. Until recently, the carpool kiosk was located in the same general area as the lot will occupy.

That portion of the frontage road features extra-wide lanes, a portion of which will be converted to an approximately 40-space cellphone waiting area parking lot, Whitelock said. The lane will be whittled down to a normal size, while the area will eventually feature a loop allowing those at the cellphone lot to re-access the terminal without having to get back on Highway 82, he said.

Officials were ready to design and pave the new lot this fall, but the winter weather means the temperatures are too low and the project is best put off until spring, Whitelock said.

The cellphone lot became a necessary feature at the airport after the Transportation Safety Administration put its collective foot down and finally forbid parking in front of Aspen’s airport terminal this year, said John Kinney, airport director.

“We were one of the last, if not the last airport in the nation, to hold on to (parking in front of the terminal),” Kinney said.

The change has not been without its critics, said Kinney and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.

“It’s been a challenge for some folks,” Peacock said. “There’s definitely been some people unhappy about it.”

Kinney said the complaints about the no-parking policy have died down a bit.

“It’s change,” he said. “People are pretty appreciative and protective of being able to leave their car and go inside and greet people.”

That luxury, however, is a thing of the past.

The cellphone lot is slated to cost about $168,000 to build, which will come out of an airport operating fund that collects money from airlines and other fees and will not come from taxpayer money, Kinney said.