Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Freight traffic propels plans to upgrade airport
By Malcolm Maclachlan
The Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel
Stockton Airport officials are moving forward with plans to fix up the facility to handle growing freight traffic, with a hope-for return of passenger service within five years. Today, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will review a $3.6 million plan for fixing up the airport’s hangar area. The money will be used to complete overdue repairs and utility work on asphalt sections in the eastern and northern parts of the facility.
According to airport documents, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program will provide $3.4 million of these funds. The state will offer $171,000, with the Airport Enterprise Fund chipping in the last $9,000.
This work is merely the first phase in some ambitious plans for the facility, said Barry Rondinella, Stockton Airport director.
The next phase calls for $750,000 to improve emergency preparedness. Most of this money is slated to go to a new emergency rescue vehicle. The airport staff plans to look at bids by this summer for the vehicle, which will resemble a fire truck with a specialized turret designed for fighting airplane fires.
This work would be followed by an expansion of the cargo ramp adjoining the airport’s 2 million-cubic-foot refrigeration facility. The warehouse is a key component in the airport’s expanding agricultural import/export traffic.
Rondinella said the airport handled 17,000 tons of freight last year, a 10 percent increase from 2003.
Finally, he cited comments made last month by John L. Martin, director of San Francisco International Airport. Martin said SFO was reaching capacity and was counting on smaller, regional airports to begin taking some of the load. Rondinella said he has talked to several airlines about adding passenger services, and he said he expects at least one to be running flights no later than 2010.
“The Bay Area airports are getting back to pre-September 11 levels,” Rondinella said. “We can spend $5 billion expanding those airports, or we can push that traffic to secondary airports like Stockton.”
America West used the airport from February 2001 to September 2003 to feed travelers to its Phoenix hub. The route served about 30,000 travelers a year, Rondinella said, and was profitable for the airline.
However, in the wake of financial problems following the 2001 terrorist attacks, the company ended leases on five of its jets as a cost-saving move. This ended service in Stockton, Carlsbad, Ventura and some other regional airports.
The Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. today on the seventh floor of the San Joaquin County Courthouse, 222 E. Weber Ave., in Stockton.