Airport could see 1,500-car parking garage

Hangars for private planes also part of master plan
Airport officials say a future redevelopment of the facility would ideally include a nearly 1,500-car parking garage and hangars for airplanes.

Officials are writing a 20-year master plan for the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, and holding ongoing public meetings seeking input from residents on their needs and preferences for the facility.

Airport director Jim Elwood and a team of master plan consultants met with the county commissioners Tuesday.

Scott Cary, of Denver-based Jviation airport planning, told the county board growing demands on the airport will necessitate a new parking structure with expanded capacity. Preliminary plans, he said, envision a new garage with 1,474 spaces.

Local residents and neighborhood groups who have attended public charettes on the airport plan, he said, support adding a garage so long as it can be put underground and not affect the landscape around the airport.

They want to protect the views of the surrounding areas, Cary said of local residents who have attended public outreach sessions.

He said the local water table is low enough that crews could dig as many as four stories underground for a parking garage.

Along with the garage for commercial travelers, the airport team said more room is needed to park private planes.

Private jets account for the majority of air traffic at the airport. It currently has no enclosed hangars for those aircraft, and a limited amount of space to park them during busy times in the local resort.
AirportMasterPlan_hr.jpgAs a result, explained Tom Schnetzer of Mead & Hunt aviation consulting, private pilots will often drop off passengers at the Aspen airport, then fly their empty aircraft to less crowded private airports in the region. They will then fly back and pick up their passengers when they are ready to leave Aspen.

Thats double the operations for the same amount of passengers, Schnetzer said.

The inefficient use of the local airstrip could be solved, he suggested, by adding more plane parking and hangars.

Like the idea of the underground and view-friendly car garage, he suggested hangars for planes could be built into the hillsides around the airport.

Putting planes in hangars, or enclosing the current open-air patio-style parking spots also would cut down the need for lengthy de-icing procedures at the airport.

The cost of updating the airport master plan is estimated at about $1.4 million but implementing it will cost much more. Local taxpayer funds are not being used for the process. It is being covered by local and federal airport use fees.

The board of county commissioners will have to approve the final master plan. As the process continues, commission chair Rachel Richards warned that the board will be scrutinizing calls for expansions of the airport facility and building any hangars or parking garages.

The overall mass is something well need to look at very closely, she said.
Aspen/Pitkin County Airport
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