Construction of a new baggage-handling facility and remodeling of the ticket counter and airline operational offices are on schedule and on budget at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
The $1.7 million project was done in two phases, with the first phase – construction of a 4,600-square-foot, prefabricated metal building to serve as a baggage-handling facility and garage – completed months ago. That allowed the airport to begin Phase 2, remodeling and renovating the ticket counter and offices to provide three times more space to airlines and Transportation Security Administration employees.
“The project was born at the request of the airlines and the TSA,” said Tony Vicari, director of aviation at the airport. “They came to us saying they needed more baggage space, more screening space.”
He said the renovations also create one more ticket-counter area, making a more attractive rental space for any new airline interested in serving DRO.
“It provides a platform for a turnkey operation to better recruit air service,” he said.
The remodel will be paid for by the airlines through fees assessed to passengers and rent paid by the TSA.
“Passengers won’t see a dramatic difference, but this will provide a more efficient space for airline operations and increase baggage capacity,” Vicari said.
The automated baggage conveyor system will eliminate much of the physical exertion required by airline and TSA employees and make a more comfortable work environment.
“The new baggage-handling facility allowed us to separate office functions from a garage. We were both undersized and had conflicting uses. We had offices that had to deal with noise and exhaust issues,” he said.
The remodeled offices, at 3,500 square feet, will be three times the size of the old office space, accomplished by moving baggage operations and the garage to the new, prefabricated building.
“We’ll have a joint-use break room. We never had that before. The airlines had small refrigerators and self-provided appliances, some microwaves in offices. There was no running water,” he said.
The new office space will allow for segregated uses like supervisory offices and training rooms.
Looking ahead to future improvements, a public workshop to examine the airport’s Terminal Area Plan Study will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 14 in Durango City Council chambers to allow comments on several options to renovate the terminal, built in 1988.
“It will provide a first look at conceptual alternatives to the long-term development of the terminal,” Vicari said. “The public comments will help guide us in long-term development and help reassess our long-term planning. The public can study conceptual designs and make comments on them.”
Vicari said making occasional terminal improvements financed by airport operations, like the current project, is one of the models examined for moving forward to improve the aging structure.
Alternatives to making terminal upgrades have been sought since voters in November 2016 defeated a proposal to issue $40.4 million in bonds to build a new terminal. The measure was rejected by a wide margin – 18,541 to 11,556.
Next up on the list for improvements is upgrades to restrooms.
“They need touching up. They have a dated look, like from 1988,” Vicari said.