GJT an option to DIA?

Grand Junction Regional Airport has two direct connections now to Los Angeles International Airport to accompany the flights it now sends to Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, but most agree that the airport remains woefully underutilized.

Proof of that contention can now be found on the other side of the Continental Divide, where Colorado Springs Airport expects to offer daily nonstop commercial service to 17 markets, most recently with two daily connections to O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s third-busiest airport.

Odds are that few Grand Valley residents knew that Colorado Springs has a commercial airport, much less that it seems to be viable, if not thriving.

Colorado Springs is taking it a step further, though, suggesting that its airport should be considered a legitimate alternative to Denver International Airport, the behemoth that rules over all of Colorado aviation.

Colorado Springs’ bid rests on the reasoning that it can provide better access to much of the I-25 corridor than can Denver International.

Anyone who has tried to snake through the traffic to and from Peña Boulevard to catch a flight from out of Denver International knows that Colorado Springs has a point on that score.

Grand Junction Regional, however, also has a point to make in that regard.

It makes little sense to direct tourists and leisure travelers to Denver or Colorado Springs to brave the labyrinth of gridlocked highways and narrow canyon roads that lead to the high country. Newcomers can be forgiven for thinking that they’re back on a plane on a steep approach during the drop down Floyd Hill. It’s more invigorating, of course, with an 18-wheeler rubbing up against the back bumper in a driving snowstorm.

Grand Junction Regional Airport should be recognized as a legitimate alternative access point to those same mountain resorts, to say nothing of the high desert and burgeoning biking meccas.

There’s no reason to pigeonhole Grand Junction Regional Airport as purely a recreational destination, though. Already a multitude of businesses is voicing interest in establishing a Foreign Trade Zone at the airport, among them even the Montrose Economic Development Corp.

It’s axiomatic that where there is business, there is travel. The increasing numbers of enplanements at Grand Junction Regional Airport demonstrates that western Colorado is a market yearning to be tapped because the other option — Remember Floyd Hill? — is less attractive by the day.

It’s time, then, for the Grand Valley, and the rest of Colorado to think of Grand Junction Regional Airport as a legitimate alternative to Denver International.

Doubters are encouraged to drop by and explain their questions some day around sundown at the Bookcliff Bar, preferably with a Grand Valley wine or local brew. We suspect they’ll come around.


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