Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New airport important over long term

We are about halfway through what will turn out to be a 25-year project for a long-term solution for community air transportation in Blaine County.

Currently, a new airport is scheduled to be open in fall 2019. The preferred location of the new airport is about 22 miles south of Hailey on the east side of Highway 75. A milestone in the process should be reached this August: the release of the draft environmental impact statement, which is a comprehensive study of our airport relocation, being conducted by the federal government.

Experts in the aviation industry estimate the cost of construction for a turnkey operational airport, including all the extra private infrastructure and a 10 percent contingency, at about $326 million in year 2019 dollars. We don't know how much our local contribution will be yet, but it is estimated to be between $10 million and $25 million dollars, not counting what we will eventually get back from the sale of existing airport land. No local property or sales tax money has been or will be used on this project without a two-thirds voter approval. If there are no other insurmountable obstacles discovered in the interim, this vote could be scheduled as soon as November 2012.

What will a new airport do for us? It will be much more reliable, especially in the winter, than Friedman Memorial Airport. It will meet all FAA safety design standards. And it will allow for room, now and into the future, for as much expansion as we would need for the next 100 years. And as has been previously stated, it will create other economic benefits.

For anyone who has questions or a desire to have a meaningful discussion about airport issues, I encourage you to give me a call at 788-5500.

Tom Bowman

Chair, Friedman Memorial Airport Authority

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