Lloyd Arnold, director of aviation at the airport, said overcrowding on busy days has not only inconvenienced passengers, but at times slowed air traffic.
‘We don’t have enough holding area for people who have been processed by TSA,” he said, adding that additional passengers can’t be admitted to the secure area until those already there have boarded, which can cause flight delays.
“If you planned to fly to Denver at 10 a.m. but the plane doesn’t depart until 10:30, you’re holding up flights at other airports,” he said. “This will alleviate the current congestion.”
The current terminal has 28,700 square feet. So the addition will bring it almost 40,000 square feet.
It’s still not enough, Arnold said, but will be a huge improvement. The airport processes 200,000 enplanements and deplanements each year, and a terminal of 60,000 square feet is recommended for that volume.
The terminal expansion will allow for new counters and more common areas as well as the enlarged TSA holding area, Arnold said. New bathrooms have already been added to the secure area.
The construction will cost $3.2 million, funded primarily by the Federal Aviation Administration Entitlement Funds and grants from the Colorado Department of Highways. Only $160,000 was required in local matching grants, which Arnold said earlier is “almost a giveaway.”
The interior of the terminal will be designed to match the current décor, he said, and a new baggage handling system will be put in place that will process more bags per hour, he said.
The main contractor for the project is H.W. Houston Construction of Pueblo, and the architect is Patrik Davis Associates of Montrose. Arnold said Davis worked on the terminal when it was built back in 1988.
“It’s nice to have him on board as the original architect,” he said.
The expansion moves the south wall of the terminal out about 50 feet, and when it’s finished, people won’t notice much difference, except for having a lot more space.
When he was coming up with plans for the expansion last year, Arnold stressed that the traveling public, not taxpayers, are paying for the expansion, from user fees within the aviation system.
“If you have not used the aviation system, you have not contributed to airport improvement funds,” he said. “It’s not tax money.”
Future expansion, as it has in the past, will be guided by the airport’s Funding and Facilities Committee, Arnold said.
The Montrose airport is the “largest economic engine” for this area, he said, with a yearly impact of $329 million.