County seeking airport grant

Federal funds would be used to increase summer flights

— Looking to bolster summer flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Routt County is partnering itself with local communities and corporations as it seeks a grant from a federal agency.

Routt County is planning to submit an application in April to the U.S. Department of Transportation for funds to improve the airport's summer air service and also to increase its number of flights in the winter.

"There is a need for additional flights in the summer," said Jim Parker, the airport's aviation director. "There is definitely a market."

As officials work on the application the federal agency has geared to improve small community air service development across the nation, the county is seeking local support.

Interested in securing funds for the Hayden airport through the new program are officials from Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Craig, Moffat County, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Officials expect for the grant application to be competitive. The U.S. Department of Transportation has $20 million available to award this year.

The agency is to approve no more than 40 proposals and limit four from each state. The applications are due April 13.

Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski Area, said Routt County must achieve three goals to be competitive for the funds.

First, Wirth said the county must form a board that consists of public and private officials.

Second, the local partnership must ensure the federal agency local matching money is available for the proposed air service improvements, he said.

Finally, the partnership must prove to the agency that the expanded new service will enhance competition, he said.

On Wednesday, the county formed the Northwest Colorado Air Transportation Consortium, which consists of all the communities and corporations that support the county.

Officials also had preliminary talks in how air service could be increased at the airport during the summer.

As the ski season comes to an end, flights into the airport will start to diminish, Parker said.

Starting on April 8, the only airline that will fly into the airport is Air Wisconsin, Parker said.

The airline will provide three daily flights, he said.

During the ski season, five airlines fly in and out of the airport, and officials believe more flights are needed in the summertime.

Parker said a majority of residents in the Yampa Valley drive to Denver to catch flights in the summer.

If the airport offered additional flights in the summer, Parker said it could lower airline ticket prices and make it more desirable for local residents to utilize the airport here.

Ski Corp. and the chamber are in favor of increasing flight service at the airport to in-crease tourist activity in the summer.

Sandy Evans-Hall, chamber executive director, said summer activity has been on the rise each year.

"Most of the summer traffic is driving here," she said.

Officials are interested in working with airlines to find out if they would be interested in providing flights from Houston, Dallas and Chicago in the summer.

To enhance the winter service, flights from Newark and Atlanta are possibilities.

The funds from the Department of Transportation would be used to pay for the flights.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the application is a key to improving the airport service.

"We would like to increase the summer service so we could roll it into a year-round program," he said.

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