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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 22 - 28, 2003


The $631 million
dollar question

Now that the Federal Aviation Administration has forced the Friedman Airport Authority to put the airport in limbo by recommending relocation outside Hailey, the FAA and the authority have a lot of questions to answer.

How to build the airport and how much it will cost are the least of these.

The big questions involve the economic and social impacts of a relocated airport, and what will happen in the dozen years it may take before the airport is completed.

With $631 million in total sales in 2002, Blaine County ranked 10th of Idaho’s 44 counties, according to state records.

So, the $631 million dollar question is how far away can the airport be built before the distance from Sun Valley has a decidedly negative effect on air travel and the local economy?

If 75 miles, the distance to the existing Twin Falls airport, is too far, what’s the ideal number? 25 miles? 35 miles? Someone needs to figure that out by questioning travelers or other means—before site selection even begins.

One of the more interesting questions is whether or not Friedman Airport will remain open.

Should moving the airport have a negative economic effect, it may be tempting to try to split the difference and keep Friedman open for private planes only. The irony? The small noisy jets that drive Wood River Valley residents crazy could remain while the quiet commercial jets would be forced out.

And what of the development pressure a new airport may produce.

Planners say remote airports don’t stay remote for long. Airports, like railroads before them, find that communities grow up around them. People with airport jobs, air commuters, and companies with air-related businesses populate them.

This has serious implications for any new airport site as well as for traffic on an already crowded State Highway 75.

Just as important, will Friedman fall into neglect over the next decade while the valley waits for a new airport to be built? Or, will the airport still be forced to install the unpalatable "improvements’" that forced the move to relocation?

The questions need answers before any pretty site plans are posted. Otherwise, the valley cherished by residents and visitors alike will be at risk.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.