Colorado Public Works Journal, Winter 2024

38┃ Colorado Public Works Journal In aviation, experience is everything, and at the Colorado Springs Airport (COS), the plan is to elevate. Director of Aviation Greg Phillips, who has been at the helm since January 2017, appreciates that the causes of change can be many. However, the willingness to confront challenges head-on remains a critical constant in aviation infrastructure. The trick is to stay ahead of the curve. “The City of Colorado Springs has seen a surge of growth in recent years. The airport is the area’s largest economic engine and a gateway to the city,” Phillips explains the importance of a good first impression. “We don’t ever want to limit growth.” Phillips points to April 2018 as the genesis of this story. That was when workers using propane torches caught the secondstory roof of the terminal on fire by accident. Though there were no injuries, and the airport was down for less than a day, the damage was significant. “The fire was an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive,” continues Phillips. “As a result, we updated the entire public side of the terminal. We took the walls down to the studs and rebuilt everything to a new construction standard that is very welcoming. Now, it’s time to take on the concourse. It’s almost 29 years old.” The concourse at COS opened in 1995 as a 12-gate facility. Enplanements peaked at 2.4 million annually in 1996. However, those figures are seen as an anomaly attributed to the shortterm presence of Western Pacific Airlines at COS but do reveal the airport’s potential long-term. In 2023, COS hosted roughly 1.2 million enplanements, suggesting that the concourse only operates at half capacity as initially built. Phillips and the COS team aim to close that gap over time but appreciate the need to modernize what they have as they go. ElevateCOS will be a $38 million, eight-phase modernization program that will improve everything in the concourse, from the building systems to the finishes and fixtures. Electrochromic windows will automatically adjust to exterior light conditions, and LED lighting throughout makes energy efficiency standard. “The biggest change is moving to common use passenger processing systems,” says Phillips of the need to facilitate plug-and-play operational movements among multiple carriers concurrently. “This will allow, for example, American Airlines to use Gate 8 in the morning, Southwest at mid-day, and back to American in the evening. By eliminating proprietary gates, we greatly increase the overall utility of each of our gates. This means more flexibility in the moment and more opportunity for growth without burden down the line.” Other aspects of the concourse modernization include expanding the TSA queuing area and adding a fifth lane to the TSA checkpoint to move passengers through security more efficiently. Adding an oversized bag system will better ElevateCOS concourse improvements are underway in By Sean O’Keefe