When the powers in Washington, D.C., finally turn their attention to correcting the country’s significant infrastructure shortcomings, the per-passenger charge that airports are allowed to add to ticket prices will be a source for some of the funding.
That same passenger facility charge, $4.50, is what is being used to cover the cost of acquiring 12.5 acres of land just across the country road to the northeast of the Durango-La Plata County Airport for eventual expansion.
That $4.50 would have played a role, along with a local tax and federal grants, in funding the terminal relocation and expansion that was turned down by voters in 2016.
Since then, the airport has been taking small steps to improve the terminal, including adding parking, considering the rubber-walled gate area at least temporarily permanent and planning the expansion of the airlines’ administrative spaces.
Many airports would like to see the passenger facility charge increased for their expansion and improvement needs – it has been $4.50 for some time – but the airlines have consistently pushed back.
That charge obviously makes a ticket more expensive. The fee, whatever its size, has some acceptance, as it’s being paid by users. The revenue is not coming from a general tax base of some kind, which would include infrequent fliers or non-fliers.
The purchase of the 12.5 acres, which the La Plata Commission approved last week and the Durango City Council did two weeks ago, is costing $3.9 million. The acreage has been partially developed, and the two buildings on it will continue to be leased. (The back story: the land and buildings were built and initially used by Loronix, which was a security device firm owned by the father of a Fort Lewis College student. Visiting his son, the anecdote goes, dad announced that he thought La Plata County had appeal and was worthy of locating a family business venture.)
County commissioners and city councilors deserve praise for their foresight in acquiring the acreage, some of which can be put to use for rental car facilities and for parking.
County residents’ air travel needs – and that includes the needs of travelers residing in San Juan County, New Mexico, about 45 minutes distant, and in Montezuma and Archuleta counties, an hour away – are growing and will continue. An expanded terminal has value.
Judicious use of airport revenues as evidenced here, as opposed to general fund taxes, deserves praise. Commissioners and councilors, well done.