Friday, January 2, 2009

2008 saw quickened pace toward new airport


By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer

     The year 2008 for FriedmanMemorialAirport will be remembered for the accelerated pace to designate a new airport site and move quickly toward a final decision of where to build a replacement.

     This comes after years of opposition to closing Friedman, whose close-in location benefits both passengers and crews.

     But since talk of a new airport began seriously in the 1990s, reality finally forced the community to recognize the urgent need. Housing and commercial development had crept closer to Friedman and the airport’s location in the middle of mountainous terrain made operations more chancy with the onset of larger, faster new airliners.

     In August, after several years of debates by a citizens site selection committee and initial phases of an FAA-financed environmental impact statement study, three prospective sites for a new airport were picked from a list of 16 potential locales.

     The three—site No. 10-A in south Blaine County east of state Highway 75, site No. 4 in the Bellevue Triangle and site No. 12 along U.S. Highway 20 east of Fairfield—are now undergoing more rigorous evaluation before a final selection is made.

     Something of another highpoint was achieved in 2008 when the mayors of Ketchum and Sun Valley endorsed the EIS project, spurning calls among some critics of a new airport to question the study’s evaluation criteria. The cities generally had been the source of stubborn resistance to moving Friedman.

     During the year, Friedman’s longtime fixed-base operation, Sun Valley Aviation, was sold to the nationwide Atlantic Aviation network of airport service and maintenance operations.

     Also, 2008 was a year of disappointment for business and civic interests that had been lobbying Frontier Airlines to inaugurate a Denver-to-Friedman route. The Denver-based airline, which had announced it was expanding service in the RockyMountain area, decided to bypass the WoodRiverValley for now.




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