Our View: Keep up the pace | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Keep up the pace

Thank you, Routt County commissioners, for a holiday gift that the thousands of people who will use Yampa Valley Regional Airport this winter are sure to appreciate.

Thank you for the warm, heated, walled-in terminal addition that opened just in time for the ski season.

Under pressure, the county and its partners at the cities of Steamboat Springs and Craig and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. worked together to produce a 4,000-square-foot addition to meet the airport’s most critical needs.

The expansion allows the airport to handle federally mandated baggage screening equipment while giving departing passengers a comfortable place in which to wait. Now, we urge those involved with YVRA’s development to keep up the pace and stick to their plans to make Colorado’s fifth-busiest airport look the part.

Travelers who endured the wait for baggage screening in a temporary tent last winter may be the most immediately appreciative of the extra indoor space that opened Dec. 17, but the addition is much more than a convenience.

It has taken a costly false start and a number of years to begin improvements on YVRA’s woefully outdated facilties.

Last year, though, in part because its hand was forced by a federal mandate to accommodate expanded baggage screening, the county acted quickly to secure funding and begin construction on the $765,000 addition. For that, we heartily commend them.

But the newly completed addition is only the first of a three-phase construction project that will add an expanded ticketing lobby, new baggage carousel and parking improvements within the next five years.

For an airport that handled more than 108,000 deplaning passengers last year, those improvements are sorely needed.

Forget Steamboat’s world-class ski area; the airport is the first and last impression the valley makes on many visitors. Among the YVRA realities that don’t make the lasting impression a good one: Cramming three jets’ worth of passengers around one baggage carousel; cramming the same crowd into one narrow ticketing lobby when they are ready to depart; asking those people to lean against walls during a two-hour wait for a weather-delayed plane because there aren’t enough seats.

County officials plan to address those problems through this project. They have said they hope to complete the next phase, which includes the ticketing-area expansion and parking lot improvements, by 2005 and have the third and final phase, the baggage claim expansion, in the works by 2007 or 2008.

We encourage them to stick to that schedule even though the immediate needs have been met and the gun is not lodged quite so firmly in their back.

The Hayden airport is crucial to the health of Routt County’s economy; we encourage those involved to keep working, and working quickly, to improve the airport to meet the quality of the valley it serves.

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