Spencer: Not so fast with airport

I’m writing again to encourage you all to pause any action on the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport runway expansion to gather more information. The op-ed from Jackie Merrill (Aspen Daily News, June 1; The Aspen Times, June 2) highlights again that we (you) don’t have the most comprehensive factual information to make this decision yet.

There are a lot of opinions of people (possibly with undisclosed agendas) that have guided the Common Ground Recommendations from the start. There are too many unknowns and several fear-based guesses (Commercial airlines will stop landing here for one). We need facts. 

In addition to Ms. Merrill’s suggestion to gain more information about public control of the airport and the fleet mix estimate, I strongly encourage you to look more closely at the safety aspects of Aspen’s airport and the expansion. There is a lack of air quality studies, and those that have been completed privately are alarming (see Aspen Fly Right).

Wider planes with larger engines might spew out more air pollution, which is a concern for anyone in the immediate area. The risk of an aircraft, God forbid, crashing in the vicinity is low, but not absent. Higher capacity planes equals more risk for loss of life.

Does the Pitkin County Public Safety Council have an opinion on this expansion and a proposed incident management plan? Unlike other airports with vacant land surrounding, Aspen’s airport is wedged between a ski resort (That hosts at least one international ski competition annually), a state highway, a major road, and more mountains. Nearby are housing units where families reside, businesses, and a college. 

Please, please, do not feel like we need to move forward with the runway-width expansion because we might lose money from the FAA. Let’s do what is right for this community this year, so we don’t regret it in 10, 20, 30 years and beyond. If the evidence really does show that runway expansion is in our best interest and safe, then so be it. If we make guesses on this huge decision, and make the wrong one, there’s nothing we can do to go back. 

Kate Violette Spencer