News from the Knoff Group

Yellowstone International Airport Expansions and I-90 Exit Update & Opportunities

I attended a seminar given by manager Brian Sprenger about the recent expansions, future plans and current status of the Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), formerly known as  Gallatin Field, that services the Gallatin Valley and Southwestern Montana.  A new freeway exit is in the process of being built (I’ve blogged about this in the past) that will directly access the airport and help alleviate traffic woes in Belgrade.

Click here to download .pdf version of Airport Expansion Map

Yellowstone International Airport is growing at a rate of about 5% per year which is surpassing other airports statewide.  The demographic using the airport breaks down to about 35% locals getting out of town for business or pleasure, 33% Tourists visiting the state and 33% folks coming to the area for business reasons. To boost continued growth, Yellowstone International has an active air service development program to help establish and maintain new direct routes to other parts of the country.  This includes seat guarantees with the airlines, minimum revenue guarantees, landing fee waivers, lowe airport fees ($3 per passenger vs $8.50 for Jackson, WY), ticket purchase agreements and marketing dollars.  This program has expanded service direct to New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Denver over the years.

Over the past decade, Frontier airlines has been a major reason for the success of this airport.  They allow for competition and don’t allow the big airlines to gouge customers for flying to more regional area airports.  As a result, Bozeman has some of the cheapest on average ticket prices in the region.  In addition, the airport has recently upgraded its landing and takeoff protocol to accommodate for more air traffic.

The airport recently expanded, adding a second terminal and the response to this has been overwhelmingly positive.  On the docket for developments include a new parallel runway (which exists but is currently a grass strip) for smaller aircraft to utilize – allowing for the larger airlines to takeoff and land without the competition of private pilots.  This is significant in that the flight schools at the airport account for 20% of the takeoffs and landings.

The new exit off I-90 onto Alaska Road and Airport Road will significantly change access to the airport for the better and will allow for numerous new commercial opportunities along its corridor.  The exit is currently under construction and should be completed before the end of 2014. The exit will bring those accessing the airport through the current Knife River gravel pit, which is being raised, and a bridge will be constructed both under I-90 and under the railroad to allow for unhindered passage of traffic to the south and north. The frontage road will be lowered near the airport nearly 12 feet to accommodate this new bridge underpass. These are the first underpasses constructed under the railroad tracks and I-90 in the central Belgrade area.  A benefit of this includes easier passage of emergency vehicles and reduced traffic congestion at the Belgrade on ramp.

As an added dimension to the new airport access, a new roadway will be constructed that connects the new exit to Dry Creek Road, eliminating much of the traffic this is currently forced to use Broadway through Belgrade.  Along the southern half of this corridor will be opportunity for more commercial development.

Project timeline for the airport projects is as follows –

Expanded parking 2013

New Entrance Roads (part of new exit project) 2014

New Snow Removal Equipment 2014

Second paved runway 2015

Northside of Dry Creek Corridor development 2016

Rehab of Main Runway 2017

Rehab of Airline Taxi System 2018

Multi Use Parking Garage (car rental and long/short term parking) 2019