Durango-La Plata County Airport plans to invest $270,000 this year in a long-term plan for a terminal expansion.
The work, which is expected to be finished by the end of the year, will build on a $1.6 million terminal renovation project the airport started this spring, said Aviation Director Tony Vicari.
The renovation and expansion of 5,000 square feet of interior areas will include the installation of a new baggage-conveyor system, updating and expanding airline offices and consolidation of the Transportation Security Administration baggage-screening operations.
The work is being paid for through the airport’s enterprise funds, not taxpayer dollars.
The renovations will be incorporated into the long-term plans for the terminal and associated infrastructure, Vicari said.
The new plan will also use the master plan the airport completed in 2016 that identified three possible alternatives for the airport expansion, including building a new terminal on the east side of the runway. Voters turned down a property tax increase that would have raised $40 million needed to build the new terminal, and, as a result, plans for that building were scrapped.
By expanding the terminal on the west side of the runway, construction can be phased in over time because it is relying on existing infrastructure, Vicari said.
“We don’t want to be stuck in a place of perpetually waiting for the perfect plan,” he said.
However, the plans for the terminal need to be revisited because the airport is going to purchase 12.5 acres directly adjacent to the airport on the northeast side that could be used for facilities. Previous plans also relied on dated passenger forecasts that were more aggressive than what the airport has seen, he said.
Vicari said he will ensure construction plans are feasible and have solid funding. It is possible the airport would self-fund construction, he said.
“It doesn’t do us any good to roll out a plan that we don’t have a funding strategy for,” he said.
A major hurdle to construction was cleared in April when the Federal Aviation Administration issued a finding of no significant impact after an environmental assessment.
The environmental assessment was focused on the existing terminal and surrounding area, he said.
Previously, the environmental assessment had a broader scope and examined property on the east side of the runway and land where a realignment of the airport’s access road, County Road 309A, could be built.
Environmental concerns, such as wetlands, endangered species habitat and potential sites of cultural and historical significance to Native American tribes, were also identified on property that now remains untouched.