After a three-month-long hiatus that included discussions with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials, the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport anticipates rolling out a more efficient, more cost-effective and less confusing Environmental Assessment process concerning upcoming improvements at the Airport. Pending formal approval by County Commissioners at their regular meeting September 9th, required FAA runway safety improvements and a new airport terminal will be the primary focus of one environmental assessment (EA). A second EA that includes a taxiway and Fixed Based Operator facility on the Airport’s west side will be considered separately, if and when funding is available at some point in the future. Three factors are driving the proposed change in the EA process: First, the county’s priority of safety and the preservation of future commercial service; second, the county’s understanding that FAA funding for all projects identified in the master plan will not be received as quickly as originally planned; and third, public sentiment that separate EA processes for the terminal and runway improvements were confusing.
“Safety has always been the top priority at this airport,” said Airport Director, John Kinney. “We will be reconfiguring the runway to meet FAA design standards to accommodate aircraft with wider wingspans that will replace the commercial fleet serving Aspen in the coming years. We also need a new terminal to address existing safety and functional issues and to better serve the traveling public.”
Airport officials learned over the summer, after a dual EA process had already begun, that FAA funding availability had decreased because of demand from airports around the nation on the FAA’s funding pool. Based on estimated funding shortfalls the parallel taxiway, the 2nd Fixed Base Operator (FBO), and underground parking are not considered within the current planning horizon.
The proposed runway reconfiguration does not include a parallel taxiway on the airport’s west side. Acquisition of Burlingame Open Space along Owl Creek Road will not be not required for the runway project to move forward. Runway reconfiguration will still require a small portion of Owl Creek road to be realigned within existing right of way, while more extensive impacts on Owl Creek Road will not be necessary.
“We have listened to the community, we have had a ‘reality check’ with the FAA, and we are looking forward to a simplified EA scope and process with robust community involvement as we move forward,” Kinney said.
The community is invited to a public workshop to learn about the single EA process on Thursday, September 10 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Limelight Hotel. More information is also available online at www.aspenairportplanning.com.
Contact: John Kinney - Airport Director