Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Airport expansion isnít the answer

It seems there's a great misperception among valley residents that the proposed expansion of Friedman Memorial Airport is the affordable solution to our airport reliability issues. Yet the Airport Authority has repeatedly stated—and published—information that while this expansion would bring the airport into compliance with the FAA, it is not the long-term solution needed, nor is it affordable.

A document titled "FAA Whitepaper" states that "[e]xtensive impacts to the Airport and its environs, including project costs estimated at between $230 million to $270 million would be required to meet C-III standards at the existing site. And, even if such improvements were undertaken, the FAA has stated that no options exist to improve the reliability of flight operations at the Airport in periods of reduced visibility. As such, it would be expected that current rates of flight diversions and/or cancellations in winter months, averaging 20 percent in recent years, should be expected to continue indefinitely."

The willingness of the Airport Authority to pursue a temporary solution to a long-term problem defies logic: spend $230 million to $270 million now and deal with the same issues in 15-20 years or strive for a permanent solution at a cost of $326.9 million.

The replacement airport would be in compliance with the FAA regulations, "capable of accommodating existing and future aviation demand," and improve the reliability issues without having aircraft landing from the north—over downtown Hailey—during inclement weather and without negatively impacting the well-being of the valley's residents or their property values.

It's time for "wheels up," Airport Authority—let's get this project off the ground!

Sheryl Schowengerdt


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