Reno airport unveils first update of master plan |

Reno airport unveils first update of master plan

Duane Johnson
A JetBlue airplane is cleaned on one of the runways at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Courtesy photo |

RENO — With the resurgence in the Nevada economy in the wake of the recession and a multitude of changes in the aviation industry, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport figured it was a good time to review its master plan.

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s master planning committee initiated the studies for a new master plan in October of last year and will take 16 months to complete.

Part of the studies will be forecasting commercial airport passenger and air cargo figures along with general aviation and military operations within the next 20 years.

Based on those projections, the airport will present base-growth, low-growth and high-growth scenarios for 2021, 2026 and 2036.

“We’ve seen phenomenal growth in our community and diversification of the economy. We thought it was a perfect time to look 20 years in the future and see where we need to go,” said Brian Kulpin, vice president of marketing and public affairs for the RTIA in an interview at the March 16 public unveiling and discussion of the first phase of the study at the Best Western Airport Plaza Hotel. “We want to know where we need to grow and foresee the challenges that lie ahead.”

The master plan will be overseen and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Once approved by the FAA, airport administrative can identify whether it needs to add, expand or rehabilitate facilities to keep up with demand.

Among those improvements could come, for instance, expanded parking, revised runways or taxiways or terminal modernization or expansion, to name a few.

Mead & Hunt, a national firm that specializes in airport master planning was the lead firm in the planning process. Several other expert aviation firms from across the country were enlisted to assist in master plan studies.

The last full-fledged master plan the airport put together was back in 1991. The airport said rapid changes in population demographics, increased airport safety and security measures, and technological advances contributed to formulating an updated master plan.

Kulpin indicated the airport parallels the economic viability of the region’s economy.

“The airport has added 1,500 daily seats in the last two years. We had 14 new flights in two years,” Kulpin said. “We went through the economic downturn where we lost flights so to be on the other side now it is a good place to be.”

A spokesperson with Chicago-based Unison Consulting, who preferred to remain anonymous, said in studies RTIA has a history of volatile commercial passenger traffic numbers in the last 25 years. But recent history has indicated a more stable passenger traffic base that should continue for the foreseeable future, barring unseen future events that could cause positive or negative fluctuations.

Nearly 94 percent of the master plan is funded by the FAA, which equates to $1,416,851 with the RTIA contributing another $94,457. The RTIA’s share of the funding will come from passenger facility charges. No public tax dollars are being used to fund the master plan process.

The RTIA is welcoming public comment during the 16-month planning process. People can participate in future meetings with RTIA staff, or partake in public opinion surveys through social media and the RTIA’s website.

“We want to know what the community thinks. We want to know what the key issues are to them,” Kulpin said. “The airport generates $2 billion in economic impact to the community. That’s how vital this master plan is to the community.”

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