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Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Three airport authority members made a last push Monday to revive a plan to use a North County airport to supplement the existing airport, as the authority’s strategic planning committee began digesting a marketing study that points to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar as the strongest site for a new airport.
Saying she made a mistake by voting against a North County supplement in February, authority board member Mary Teresa Sessom asked for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to consider studying the detailed costs of building the one-runway airport near Escondido.
The full authority board, which will discuss the idea next Monday, has the ultimate say – and already ruled out a North County supplement last month after a consultant said few would use the site, painting a bleak picture for its prospects.
According to that Eclat Consulting report, passengers would potentially have to pay $95 more to fly out of a North County supplement to Lindbergh Field. That threat would keep airlines away, Eclat managing partner Robert Hazel said.
When the board ruled out the sites, board member Robert L. Maxwell voiced his opposition, questioning the airport’s purported $4 billion to $6 billion price tag. He complained that the consultant’s report didn’t detail specific construction, land acquisition or environmental mitigation costs.
Sessom, joined by board member Xema Jacobson, said yesterday those costs need to be detailed, acknowledging that she expects the full board to again pan the idea.
“After looking at where we’re going on the march to Miramar, I really think the county needs to be assured that we have looked at every single option,” she said, “before we reject it out of hand.”
Sessom’s move came as the board reviewed a marketing study that points to Miramar and a Lindbergh Field/Naval Air Station North Island hybrid as the two best airport site options. The study is one of the first pieces of detailed analyses of all options available to the authority as it draws closer to choosing a site to serve the region’s growing air capacity demand.
The Eclat Consulting study calls into question the viability of a joint-use civilian-military airport at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which sits in the county’s northern reaches, 40 miles away from San Diego’s city center. In the world, only Tokyo’s airport is farther from its city center. Tokyo is not a good model for San Diego, Hazel said, because it serves as a supplement to city of 8 million and a metro area of some 35 million. And Camp Pendleton would be less appealing for international flights because of its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, Hazel said.
The study also casts doubt on four sites farther away from San Diego: March Air Reserve Base, Borrego Springs, Boulevard and Imperial County.
Although some supporters say Imperial County would become viable once the San Diego region expands east – something that happened with Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., Hazel said that won’t happen here. Northern Virginia and the San Diego-Imperial County corridor aren’t parallel, he said.
“Not even close,” he said.
In other action, the board agreed to formally oppose legislation proposed by Assemblyman Jay La Suer, R-La Mesa, which would require board members to stand for election.
La Suer has altered his proposal slightly since drafting it last month. He proposes to add two members to the nine-member board. Five members would be elected and have salaries tied to assembly members’ pay (currently $110,000.)
“We need to be concerned about politicizing this board and the damage it could do to this region,” board member and San Diego City Councilman Tony Young said. “It is a dangerous proposition that I suspect is motivated by political reasons.”
Young called La Suer’s bill an attempt to circumvent the site selection process.
“We have to be very stern,” Young said, “to say this process is working.”
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