Monday, April 24, 2006 | San Diego voters can’t be blamed for being bewildered by the protracted efforts to settle on a much needed San Diego Regional airport site and development. A good part of that confusion arises as a result of being fed inadequate, uninformed or contrived “facts” and figures to support or oppose a particular choice. voiceofsandiego.org staff writer Rob Davis has recently been soberly documenting particularly egregious examples of ghostwriting on the airport story.
For the record, I have never asked for nor received any direct or indirect inducement to represent any particular point of view on this issue, and all the research I have done for decades on the airport has been on my own dime and my only concern is to see San Diego achieve an effective resolution for what can only be described as a great once-in-a-generation opportunity.
San Diego cannot afford to wreck it as Montreal did in 1975. It happens that Greater Montreal is about as populated as Greater San Diego with some of the same problems. In 1975, Montreal dedicated the $1 billion to the Mirabel International Airport, beautifully appointed and connected by rail and roadway, to replace the old Dorval airport (read Lindbergh).
It rapidly proved to be a financial and air-transportation disaster. Today, the Dorval airport has been expanded and serves Montreal, but with one staggering loss for Montreal inhabitants: All of the international and much of the long-distance air traffic now originates and ends at Toronto International airport, 315 miles away. The modern Mirabel airport is no more. It is expensively being converted to other uses.
Already, a significant number of transcontinental and long-distance traffic is being routed in and out of Los Angeles’ LAX instead of San Diego, and that includes British Airways (remember?). For San Diego to consider building a major regional airport out in the boondocks (yes, I know these boondocks may grow and thrive around the path to such an airport, but this is not Washington’s Dulles or anything like it in our desert areas) with rapid transportation is harebrained at best.
We can also forget Miramar and Pendleton, two essential military training and operational bases for one of the most strategic port of our Pacific Coast. By the same token, we can forget international access to Tijuana’s Rodrigez airport that would require huge, costly and time-consuming negotiations between Washington and Mexico City on security, immigration and other nearly insuperable issues, over which San Diego and Tijuana would have little say.
Lindbergh has an extensive infrastructure, built-up over decades and I seriously doubt that the county and city would be so reckless as to consider scrapping it. Third, Southern California needs a major new international airport to serve both Los Angeles and San Diego. Los Angeles International in Los Angeles has increasing problems and has already been considering a replacement for at least a decade. Built somewhere inland between the two cities and connected by rapid rail transportation it would ideally complement our own expanded Lindbergh.
I am not a betting person, but I am willing to stick my neck out to suggest that what I have been proposing in my earlier articles and in this one will ultimately be selected as the most realistic option available to us.
Elie A. Shneour, a native of France and World War II U.S. veteran, is president of Biosystems Institutes, Inc. and research director of Biosystems Research Institute of San Diego.