Eagle County Regional Airport terminal expansion nears halfway
GYPSUM — Constructing a public building that will cost $33 million, cover nearly 120,000 square feet and serve the needs of thousands of customers is a daunting challenge.
Now add in specialized service needs, tight security measures and the requirement that business goes on as previously planned and the logistical trials become exponentially more complicated.
That’s what’s happening right now as the Eagle County Regional Airport terminal construction project nears the halfway point.
Residents, whose daily interaction with the facility is noticing when winter flights become more frequent, may not realize that the major project is underway. Likewise, hundreds of travelers at the Eagle County Regional Airport this holiday week may have noticed the facility’s spartan surroundings, but they likely didn’t appreciate that they were circumventing a major construction scene.
Before contractor Hensel Phillips began work on the new airport facilities, crews built a new temporary setup for the 2018-19 winter season.
The temporary hold rooms cover approximately 12,819 square feet and consist of four boarding gates with concession and bar areas. Those temporary gates and holding areas are now packed with passengers and construction crews have shifted their efforts to build the new terminal area, which will include expanded hold rooms, a reconfigured Transportation Security Administration checkpoint area, enhanced concessions and the addition of passenger jet loading bridges to four of six new gates.
‘BIG BOY AIRPORT’
“This project will make us like a big boy airport we are done,” said Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll.
For travelers, one of the biggest changes will be the jet loading bridges. Once they are completed, passengers will no longer face an outdoor walk from the plane to the terminal. The bridges will take them to a new gate area that is located at the top of the two-story terminal. They will then take an escalator or elevator down to the ground-floor facilities and out to the existing baggage claim area.
According to Bill Carson, of Hensel Phillips, the new terminal building will cover 47,239 square feet. Additionally, there will be a new ground service equipment area building underneath the second story terminal space, which will cover an additional 17,336 square feet.
All told, the total building floor after the expansion will be nearly 120,000 feet, not including the ground service equipment area. It replaces a previous 93,000-square foot structure.
A Federal Aviation Administration grant is financing the majority of the construction, with Eagle County’s match coming from airport revenues, not tax dollars.
PARDON THE DUST
Carson said the airport terminal construction is nearly 40 percent completion. At present, there are around 50 workers on site daily and that number will swell to roughly 70 per day later in the construction process. At present, teams are building the steel framework and pouring concrete at the terminal.
Because they are working at an airport, Carson said crew members must observe strict security regulations. For example, construction team leaders have security badge access to the work site through locked doors. Leaders can swipe their cards to allow workers to the site, but they have to remain within 50 feet of those workers.
“If I tell someone to get a tool and the box is more than 50 feet away, we both have to go to the box,” Carson said.
‘NO SHORTAGE OF SCENERY’
Along with the security issues, frigid recent temperatures make for a challenging work site, he noted. Then there is the site itself, which provides a panoramic view of the Vail Valley and a front-row seat to watch airport activity.
“There’s no shortage of scenery and activity out here. Sometimes is hard to keep the guys focused on their work with everything that’s going on,” Carson noted.
With huge windows planned on the north side of the new terminal, travelers will soon get their chance to enjoy those vistas. They will also enjoy a much more plush waiting and service area in just a few months. The first four gates are slated to open in early July and the remaining terminal expansion will be completed in November.