Friday, February 14, 2014

Proposed airport master plan takes ‘dual path’

Planning of facility envisioned for next 20 years


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

Passengers disembark from a regional jet at Friedman Memorial Airport. The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority is developing plans for the future of the Hailey airfield. Photo by staff files

   A proposed 20-year master plan for Friedman Memorial Airport would recommend changes at the existing site as well as evaluate sites for a replacement airport. It would also provide “trigger points” at which increased operations at the existing site would prompt construction of a new airport.
    The airport’s current master plan was created in 1985 and last updated in 2004. Since then, plans for a replacement airport have been put on hold and a two-year, $34 million construction project has been initiated to bring the existing airport into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration safety standards. The agency has permitted modifications at the space-constrained Friedman site to its usual standards regarding separation of runways and taxiways.
    Due to a renewed focus on the existing site and because the FAA reviews those modifications every five years, the agency has requested an update to the Friedman master plan.  In addition, officials have acknowledged that the airport will face a problem using the existing site when the types of commercial planes landing there exceed its weight limit. That limit allows the airport to operate under the modified standards.
    Longtime Friedman consultant Mead & Hunt presented a draft scope-of-work document for a $500,000 updated plan to the Airport Authority board Tuesday. It proposes an 18-month schedule for completing a plan that would assess projected demand and needed facility changes for five-year, 10-year and 20-year horizons.
    “The schedule indicates that we really are looking at a dual-path approach,” Mead & Hunt representative Mark McFarland said.
    According to a 27-page proposed scope-of-work document posted on the airport’s website, the master plan update would include:
l Forecasts of future aviation activity in relation to constraints at the existing site.
l An “ultimate” configuration of the airport’s runway, taxiways, terminal and parking areas.
l Identification of a site for a relocated traffic-control tower. The FAA has said the existing tower is too close to the runway.
l Identification of “necessity-based” land acquisition priorities.
l Identification of potential improvements to the airport’s instrument-approach capabilities.
l Synopsis of previously prepared planning documents related to a replacement airport site and a recommendation for the most feasible sites to “protect.”
    Lengthy discussion Tuesday, initiated by board member and Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle, addressed the question of which of the 17 potential replacement sites identified in a 2006 Airport Site Selection and Feasibility Study and subsequent environmental impact statement would be re-evaluated by the master plan update.
    “I just need to make sure that the process is politically neutral,” Haemmerle said.
    Airport Manager Rick Baird assured him that all potential sites in Blaine County, northern Lincoln County and eastern Camas County with the needed physical characteristics were included in that list.
    “This is a scientific look at where a replacement airport might be located in the future,” Baird said. “We want to make the political decisions sometime in the future when the trigger is pulled.”
    The document states that no additional replacement sites will be identified.
    The updated plan would also include a financial feasibility analysis to determine whether likely capital development costs at the current airport can be covered by existing funding sources. It would also address the financial feasibility of a replacement airport at one “representative” site.
    According to the document, Mead & Hunt would provide progress reports to the board at five important points during the process, and would hold two public information meetings.
    At Haemmerle’s request, the board took no action on the proposed scope of work in order to give the Hailey City Council time to read the document.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com




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