Bipartisan Infrastructure Law may fund Riverton airport terminal expansion

Riverton is applying for a grant to expand the terminal at Central Wyoming Regional Airport using money from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed last fall.

The law provides $550 billion over a five-year period for infrastructure investments nationwide, public works director Kyle Butterfield said.

Of that total, he said $5 billion will support a new Federal Aviation Administration program intended to “address aging infrastructure in the nation’s airports – specifically aging infrastructure related to towers and terminals.”

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Butterfield pointed out that the terminal at CWRA was built before the Transportation Security Administration was created, so the building was not designed to accommodate the screening processes that are now “necessary to ensure that our airport contributes to a safe national transportation network.”

“The designed layout of the terminal is not optimized for modern security requirements and does not promote efficient passenger circulation,” Butterfield said. “Furthermore, the passenger hold room is not adequately sized to meet current enplanement trends.”

More than 1,100 people boarded planes at CWRA last month – up from almost 1,000 the year before and about 700 in March 2020 – and the annual enplanement total for 2021 exceeded 15,000 passengers, compared to less than 8,000 in years past, Butterfield said.

This graph shows a steep increase in cumulative enplanements in 2021 at Central Wyoming Regional Airport. h/t City of Riverton

“(That’s) pretty amazing,” Councilman Dean Peranteaux said. “(It) really shows that this community is using their air service.”

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As enplanement numbers continue to rise locally, Butterfield said larger aircraft will eventually be needed at CWRA to serve the increased customer base.

“Once that happens, we want to make sure that we have a hold room that can accommodate the load factor associated with that airframe, and that the terminal is comfortable,” he said.

Butterfield pointed out that the CWRA terminal was constructed in 1997 and has never experienced a “major” expansion – although the project has been included in the airport master plan for “almost a decade now.”

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“We’ve also listed (it) in our capital improvement plan that’s been approved by the state and the FAA, to have our terminal improved by at least fiscal year 2030,” Butterfield said.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure funding gives Riverton the opportunity to “expedite” that plan, he said.

The city council authorized Butterfield to submit a grant application to the FAA’s Airport Terminal Program to expand the CWRA terminal by about 2,600 feet to the east.

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Butterfield estimated that the project would costs $5.25 million, and if the grant is approved, Riverton would only have to cover about $260,000 of that total.

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