Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Environmental assessment breaks down Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (KASE) plans: 247-page document proposes expanded runway, new terminal

The long-awaited environmental assessment for the proposed expansion/upgrade of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has been released for public consumption.

Specific components of the EA, two-and-a-half years in the making, include aircraft noise, air quality, climate, socioeconomic conditions and surface transportation, among a great many other things.

There were no jaw-dropping surprises.

The two major components of the proposed airport expansion are an expanded runway and a new terminal building.

According to the EA, the preferred alternative, culled from 18 options, is to shift the airport’s lone runway 80 feet to the west, widening it to 150 feet and strengthening it to allow up to 150,000 pounds of landing weight.

All three of those components are necessary, according to the EA, to accommodate a new generation of jets that will soon replace the smaller planes currently landing at the airport.

“In 2014, under the Air Service Study, coordination with air carriers indicated that the existing aircraft currently serving Aspen airport under the 95-foot wingspan restriction are being phased-out of the commercial service fleet and being replaced by aircraft with larger wingspans and higher seat counts by 2028. Other than the CRJ-700, which is being phased-out, no existing or future aircraft meet three important criteria: 1) the 95-foot wingspan, 2) the current weight limit and 3) can operate out of Aspen airport with the current airfield configuration,” the EA states.

As far as the need for a new terminal, the EA states, “Despite previous terminal expansion measures in 1986-1987, passenger demand at the Aspen airport has outpaced facility capacity, putting a strain on facilities and roadways during peak activity periods. Also, the current use areas are not configured in an efficient manner, resulting in some spaces that are oversized and many spaces that are undersized to fulfill their intended function. As the building continues to age, the recurring costs to keep the facility in good repair will continue to increase without major investment in newer and more efficient building systems.”

Terminal-related improvements recommended in the EA include:

• Demolition of existing passenger terminal facilities.

• Construction of a replacement terminal.

• Construction of associated parking.

• Re-configuration of the terminal roadway and recirculation roadway.

• Integration of the passenger terminal with public transit.

• Relocation of ancillary facilities, such as rental car facilities.

• Commercial service aircraft apron expansion.

• Construction of a noise barrier along the general aviation apron area.

The EA entertains two potential terminal designs.

One, called “the ridge,” has a diagonal rise from the lower curbside drop off level to the ramp where jets pick up and drop off passengers. The second concept, called “the pavilion,” is more of a traditional two-story terminal building.

Both designs are 44 feet tall from the curbside drop off to the top of the roofline, and 23 feet from the “airside” ramp to the rooftop, according to the county

The EA process seeks clearance for a building of up to 140,000 square feet. The current terminal is 44,000 square feet.

According to the EA, the terminal area (design, terminal construction, apron construction, parking and roadway improvements) would cost approximately $90.5 million for either alternative, dependent on final design and finishes selected. This would be completed in 2018-2022.

The runway shift (design and construction) would cost approximately $87.5 million. These projects would be completed during the 2023-2027 timeframe so that the new runway is functional at the time that the current air carrier fleet would be retired and switched over to heavier planes with longer wingspans. The runway reconfiguration, terminal improvements and associated improvements would be completed using a combination of local, state and federal funding, paired with money from the Passenger Facility Charge Fund, which collected from fees tacked on to airline tickets.

The EA indicates that no new federally defined “thresholds of significance,” as they relate to the factors studied, would be exceeded if the proposed projects were to be implemented.

The EA indicates that wetlands mitigation may be required along the section of Owl Creek that would be affected by the relocation of the runway. The project would result in the piping of approximately 1,670 feet of Owl Creek to reduce sedimentation and wildlife hazards on the airfield.

More than 300 public comments regarding the airport upgrades were received during the initial public scoping process earlier in the year.

“The draft EA is the culmination of years of work and study,” Airport Director John Kinney said in a press release. “With the help of our Community Input Committee and a very engaged citizenry, we have collected valuable public comment on the EA process to date. The public now has the opportunity to comment on this draft document before the Pitkin County commissioners consider it on Oct. 10 at a work session, again on Oct. 25 for first reading and on Nov. 1 for a [final] vote.”

The public is invited to attend information meetings and public hearings:

• Monday, Sept. 25 at the Pitkin County Library Dunaway Community Room at 120 North Mill Street in Aspen from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

• Tuesday, Sept. 26 at Town Hall in Snowmass Village, 130 Kearns Road from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
The format will be open house and a public hearing officer will be available to receive verbal comments on the EA.

Comments on the EA can be presented verbally or in written form at the public hearings, on the website: pitkincountyconnect.com or in writing to: Kate Andrus, 1743 Wazee Street, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80202. Comments must be received by Monday, Oct. 3.

To view the EA, go to http://aspenairport.com/other-projects/resource-documents 


Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.aspendailynews.com

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