Gallatin Field airport tower

A new runway to handle smaller aircraft was constructed at Gallatin Field to combat crowding commercial lines.

Despite the tremendous growth of the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport over the past few decades, the facility’s master planning document hasn’t been updated since the 1970s.

That’s about to change, as the Gallatin Airport Authority has authorized creation of a new master plan to guide facility and infrastructure development for the next 20 years.

Airport Director Brian Sprenger said the primary purpose of a master plan is to anticipate infrastructure and financial needs based on passenger projections.

“It is something that we need to do as an airport to plan out our infrastructure program,” Sprenger said.

Small committees are being formed to address the separate aspects of the plan, which include the on-site road system; airspace and control tower requirements; and the needs of terminal building tenants and general aviation operators located elsewhere on the campus.

The airport board will hear regular updates on their progress, and the public will be invited to review committee findings and comment further along in the process, which Sprenger anticipates will last between six and 12 months.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the busiest in the state by far, and growing. One and a half million passengers are expected to pass through it this year, which is 60 percent more than will use the airport in Billings, the state’s second largest, Sprenger said.

The committee will base its facility and infrastructure recommendations on projected passenger numbers, but technology also will drive some major decisions, Sprenger added.

One of those will be possible changes to Airport Road, currently located on the north and east sides of the airport 

property. Advances in airliner instrumentation to enable better runway approaches may require that the road be realigned so that it is further from the runways, Sprenger said.

Belgrade Planning Director Jason Karp said he will participate in the planning process because some of the activity at the airport could affect city interests and adjacent areas. For example, runway changes might necessitate zoning adjustment in northeast areas of the city.

Both Sprenger and Karp noted that activity at the airport is likely to spark economic development and create more Belgrade-area jobs. Karp said that in particular, some of the property located along the airport approaches is potentially developable and could be suitable for commercial development. However, he added, developers of those properties would likely want city services, so that is another topic on which the city and public may wish to weigh in.

Sprenger noted that improvements to the airport facility and infrastructure changes will be financed by the taxes passengers pay when they purchase their tickets, and not by public money.