An array of long-term planning options to guide expansion and development of a more efficient terminal and grounds at the Durango-La Plata County Airport were presented to the public Monday evening at Durango City Hall.
“We want to hear from all stakeholders and capture what they want and need from the airport over the next 20 years,” said DRO’s Director of Aviation Tony Vicari. “We have multiple users, and we want to hear the various viewpoints. What may be right for the passengers may not be best for the rental car operations or security. These are challenges that present themselves when dealing with a complex facility.”
Four different options to bring the airport from three undersized gates to five full-sized gates properly supported by concessions and restrooms were presented.
Three options would look at expanding the current 40,650-square-foot terminal to 82,150 square feet, 86,608 square feet or 104,470 square feet.
All the options would speed times from check-in to boarding by more efficient baggage handling and security screenings.
One of the three options, the one to expand the current terminal to 104,470 square feet, would allow the airport to accommodate planes the size of a Boeing 737 with elevated passenger boarding bridges.
A fourth option to build a completely new 121,500-square-foot terminal adjacent to the current one was also included. However, Vicari and architects working with the airport view building a completely new terminal as only an idealized model of what is possible. Current funding limitations will keep this option out of reach.
The airport plans to use only airport fees and taxes on its users to meet local matching requirements for Federal Aviation Administration funds to finance any expansion projects. The expansions would be financed without seeking a tax increase from the general public, said Roger Zalneraitis, chairman of the Airport Commission.
Vicari said: “No one is proposing this will happen in the next five years or even 10 years. We want to see what works in phased increments over time to meet our needs. If growth continues, we want to see how best, based on current facilities, to make phased investments to meet our needs over time. It’s not going to happen quickly, but it’s a vision we need to have or we’ll never get there.”
Additionally, two plans were also presented to rearrange and expand the airport’s grounds by adding parking and improving traffic flow by integrating 12.5 acres of recently acquired land next to the airport.
The land will be used for parking expansion, rental car facilities and realignments of the circulation road and airport entrance road.
The Airport Commission will examine feedback from the forum at its public meeting at 3 p.m. Oct. 24 at the airport. The commission plans to identify a preferred option at the meeting and begin exploring cost estimates and financing options.
A work session with the Durango City Council to examine the options is slated for Nov. 5 and another with the La Plata County Commission on Nov. 6.
Zalneraitis said feedback from the forum will aid commissioners on Oct. 24, when they hope to identify a preferred option.
He stressed that any option chosen would be financed through airport operations and would not require a tax increase on the general public.
“We want to hear what people like and what they don’t, and we’ve heard loud and clear that they don’t want a tax increase. What we want is a better airport and terminal that is prepared to meet our future needs and can be financed through its operations without the need for a tax increase.”