Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Expanding airport would be challenging
By KATHERINE MARKS
The North County (CA) Times
SAN DIEGO —- Adding a second runway at Lindbergh Field would require demolishing thousands of buildings, rerouting a major interstate and tearing down hillsides, a new study shows. An expansion of the downtown airport is one scenario the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is considering as it searches for a site for a new airport. The authority is required by state law to put a recommended site before county voters by 2006.
On Monday, members of the authority’s strategic planning committee got the most detailed analysis to date of what it would take to add a second runway that could be used for simultaneous takeoffs and landings at downtown’s Lindbergh Field. The current airport is expected to exceed its runway capacity by 2012.
“What you’re essentially doing is building a new airport on the existing site,” Greg Wellman, a consultant with Ricondo & Associates told the committee. The company is the technical consulting firm evaluating sites for a new airport.
The analysis of the two-runway plan was conducted at the request of a board member, said authority spokeswoman Diana Lucero, after the meeting. While expanding the airport is one alternative, the exact details of such an expansion have not been determined.
“It wasn’t a proposal, it was simply to demonstrate it would take all that (work),” she said, referring to the detailed plan that would require a bit of mountain-moving to complete.
Some 3,220 homes and buildings would be demolished and 10,850 people would be displaced to make the plan work, the analysis by Ricondo & Associates found.
The two runways would need to be 4,300 feet apart to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The existing airport is too small to accommodate two runways so far apart.
Such a layout would require the airport to acquire an additional 1,841 acres, the analysis found. The existing airport buildings would need to be relocated elsewhere on the new property.
But even with more land, problems would persist, the report found. High terrain to the northeast and southwest of the site would make approaches and takeoffs difficult. Some 80 million cubic yards of dirt would have to be moved to provide a safe flight path, according to the analysis.
Airplanes must already navigate around the trees at Balboa Park, a myriad of downtown buildings and even a television station antenna to negotiate a landing.
While the analysis didn’t make a recommendation, the summary alone, which spoke of the “significant obstruction impacts,” “major land acquisition,” “extensive infrastructure impacts and “greatly increased noise impacts” was enough to give board members pause.
“Other than that were there any problems?” committee member Breton Lobner joked after the presentation.
The other sites under review are March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County; two sites at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego; Camp Pendleton, north of Oceanside; North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado; an unspecified location in the Imperial County desert; a site in Anza Borrego, 95 miles northeast of the existing airport and a site in Campo, 75 miles east of the airport.
The authority has a retreat this weekend to refine the criteria for selecting an airport with the goal of eventually whittling the list.