Friday, February 11, 2005
Group says Borrego Springs too remote for airport
By GIG CONAUGHTON
The San Diego (CA) North County Times
SAN DIEGO —- Borrego Springs should be dropped from searches to locate a new regional airport, a group charged with evaluating potential sites to replace Lindbergh Field said Friday. A majority of the panel said the Borrego Springs site, one of nine in consideration, was too far away from most county residents and would need expensive freeway improvements to be seriously considered.
But the panel, a “public working group” for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, could not agree on a definition of how “accessible” any new airport should be and was split on whether to recommend dropping the most remote site from the search list, a still-undetermined location in the Imperial Valley desert.
Lindbergh Field’s only runway is expected to be overcrowded in less than a decade. The airport authority is looking for a place for a new regional airport and must recommend a site to county voters by 2006.
Proponents of the desert site said Friday that it could be feasible if a high-speed rail system was built with it.
The group’s recommendations will be forwarded to the airport authority’s Strategic Planning Committee, which meets Monday.
Angela Shafer-Payne, the airport authority’s vice president of strategic planning, said the committee could pass the recommendations on to the authority’s full board for consideration in March, or it could ask her staff to provide more information.
The authority has narrowed its list of potential sites over the past three years from 32 to nine.
In December, the board asked its staff to do a study detailing how long it would take county residents to reach the sites being studied. They hoped it could let them eliminate some of the sites cheaply, without doing more detailed, and expensive, studies.
On Friday, Shafer-Payne and her staff presented working group members with a study exploring drive times to the potential airport sites.
The more remote of the nine locations are the Imperial Valley desert location, the Borrego Springs site and a site in Campo. Expanding Lindbergh is also an option, as are five military sites: March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County; two sites at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego; Camp Pendleton; and North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado.
The authority won’t study the military bases until the Department of Defense decides this spring whether the Pentagon could close them.
The study predicted that 100 percent of the county’s residents would be able to reach all four locations within four hours.
But it also showed that the other three sites would mean long drives for most county residents.
The study stated it would take about an hour and 15 minutes for most county residents to reach Campo, about an hour and 45 minutes for most residents to reach Imperial Valley, and about two hours for most residents to reach Borrego Springs.
Shafer-Payne told panel members Friday that her staff hoped the group could recommend guidelines on how accessible a future airport should be —- for example, recommending that “most” of the county’s population should be able to drive to a new airport within a certain number of minutes.