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Terminal options to be explored in airport master plan

La Plata County Airport loads a United plane headed to Denver, left, and unloads passengers from a Frontier airlines flight to Denver.

A new airport terminal may still be on the table as the Durango-La Plata County Airport master plan moves forward.

Airport staff updated the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners and the Durango City Council at a joint study session earlier this week.

One of the key issues for the master plan is the airport’s terminal. Director Kip Turner said last year the airport terminal could use a second level so passengers could board by sky-bridge instead of walking outside to their plane. Turner suggested that it might make more sense to build a new terminal rather than trying to maintain an aging terminal that’s about 25 years old. A new terminal could cost $25 million to $30 million, according to past estimates.

“My impression was that because the price tag turned out to be so high, they’re going to re-look at what option might be there,” Commissioner Julie Westendorff said Friday. “To talk about what’s on the table, what’s not on the table is premature.”

The master plan is a study used to guide future airport needs, including buildings. The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports have a current master plan to be eligible for federal grants. The plan process, which kicked off last month, will look at existing conditions, growth trends, facility requirements and possible funding sources.

“Mostly the discussion focused on how public input will be solicited,” Westendorff said Friday.

The existing terminal doesn’t meet current needs or future demand. The airport served about 148,000 passengers last year. With growth comes costs as the airport needs more space for airline operations, restrooms, baggage and security.

To help update the master plan, a planning advisory committee has been formed, with many people from local businesses and community agencies.

“The communities of Bayfield and Ignacio, I think, have elected officials (on the committee), but they don’t control the airport,” said Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc at Tuesday’s study session. “The other thing I would be concerned about is if you put elected (officials) on this (committee), it influences what people say.”

The city of Durango and La Plata County share jurisdiction of the airport.

It’s likely to take a while for a decision on a new or renovated terminal. The master plan process is expected to finish early next year. However, a terminal draft report is scheduled to be done in September, and a terminal area plan final report is scheduled for an October-November time frame.

Engineering firm Jviation was hired to work on the master plan. Community meetings are planned for later this summer and into 2015.


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