San Diego's Lindbergh Field

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Airport search hits the road
The San Diego (CA) North County Times

The search for a new airport to serve the San Diego region is hitting the road. On Thursday, the first in a series of town hall meetings that will take place between this week and the fall convenes at 6:30 p.m. at the East County Performing Arts Center in El Cajon. The meetings are being sponsored by the agency in charge of the new airport search, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

“We look forward to sharing information with county residents and promoting a discussion to learn what they have to say about the region’s air transportation issues,” said Thella Bowens, the authority’s president and chief executive officer.

Thursday’s scheduled two-hour session will include a presentation from Bowens and Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom, one of the nine people who make up the authority’s board of directors. The event will be moderated by a reporter with The East County Californian newspaper.

The search for a new airport is a decades-old issue for county residents. When the state Legislature created the authority in 2003 to take over operations of downtown San Diego’s Lindbergh Field from the San Diego port district, it also mandated it come up with a recommendation for a new airport.

That recommendation is due by April 2006 under the authority’s own timeline and will go to the ballot for a countywide vote in November 2006. A new airport or an expanded Lindbergh Field is considered necessary to serve the region’s growing airline passenger and cargo demands.

Lindbergh and its single runway is forecast by the authority to be at its maximum capacity to handle the expected increase by about the year 2020.

From its original list of 32 potential airport sites, the authority has identified only four remaining possible civilian locations: the expansion of Lindbergh, a site in Campo in the southeastern portion of the county, Borrego Springs in the far eastern part of the county, and Imperial County.

Other sites were deemed too remote or impractical, a factor that is expected to also eliminate Borrego Springs.

The authority also has five military sites on its list, two at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, North Island Naval Air Station and March Air Reserve Base in Southwest Riverside County.

None of those sites will be considered until an ongoing nationwide military base closure process is completed at year’s end. The military has repeatedly said none of those sites is practical and that it is uninterested in sharing them with civilian aircraft.

Airport authority spokeswoman Diana Lucero said Tuesday that at least six more town hall meetings are planned after Thursday. The tentative sites for those sessions are Point Loma and Solana Beach in August, an undetermined central county site in September, Chula Vista and a northeast county site in October and a meeting in Alpine in November.

“We’re trying to hit as many areas as we can,” Lucero said. “Our ultimate goal is to get information to as many county residents as possible so they can make an informed decision in November 2006 on the future of the airport.”