Bozeman Daily Chronicle: More infrastructure money on the way to West Yellowstone airport

by Alex Miller

Millions of dollars are headed to a West Yellowstone airport for a terminal replacement project.

The seasonal Yellowstone Airport will receive $10 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was passed last year. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who played a key role in getting the law passed, announced the funding in a release Friday.

Tester said that the new terminal would have a big impact on the travel experience from Yellowstone National Park and on the economy of the area while it recovers from historic flooding.

“As we work to help rebuild after flooding, this key investment is a sign that the region is back open for business,” Tester said in the release.

The Republican members of Montana’s congressional delegation, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, voted against the infrastructure bill last year.

A spokesperson from Daines’ office said that the senator supports improving the airport, which will help drive tourism and support jobs.

Rosendale’s office did not return a request for comment.

Jeff Kadlec, the manager of the Yellowstone Airport, said that the money won’t fully fund the project but will push it to about 70% of the total amount of money needed to build a new terminal.

The new terminal would be 38,000 square feet at full buildout, Kadlec said – about two and a half times larger than the current airport building. The square footage could change depending on whether additions, like rental car offices, are built right away or saved for a later date.

Kadlec said that construction was on the cusp of breaking ground. The new building could be completed in Spring 2025.

The existing building was completed in 1965, nearly four decades before the creation of the Transportation and Security Administration. It has not been updated or renovated since.

Because of that, the building doesn’t meet the requirements for the TSA.

The screening area where passengers go through security is not large enough to hold an entire flight’s worth of passengers, Kadlec said. He added that there is an outdoor space where passengers can wait, but that is dependent on the weather.

The airport also has no bathrooms beyond the security checkpoint.

There is also asbestos in the airport. Kadlec said that as long as the material is not disturbed, it is not a health risk.

The building is not energy efficient, and has no air conditioning – Kadlec said that interior temperatures can hit 90 degrees in the airport on particularly warm days.

The new terminal will hopefully fill in the safety and health risks of the original terminal. Kadlec said the new building will be built with a minimalistic approach, and will meet Montana’s energy efficiency standards despite being over twice the size of the original building.

“Our building will actually be bigger, and it is projected that our utility consumption and use will be lower,” Kadlec said.

The infrastructure money is being channeled through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Terminals program, a byproduct of the new law.

Overall, $5 billion was dedicated to that program from the infrastructure package, according to the FAA. Applications for this year’s program have closed, and so far $1 billion has been distributed to airport projects across the country – including $11 million to the Missoula Airport.

The infrastructure package also slated $144 million for 69 airports in Montana, including the Yellowstone Airport, to be disbursed over five years. The seasonal airport has already received $1 million of the $5.03 million set aside by the infrastructure package.