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San Diego’s Oldest Dilemma: What to Do About the Airport

Put It at Miramar?

San Diego’s Lindbergh Field – it’s only major airport – is 661 acres; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has 23,000.

Lindbergh Field only has one runway; Miramar has two.

And so the comparisons go. A three-year long search for a solution to projections that Lindbergh Field will hit capacity sometime between 2015 and 2022 again pointed to Miramar as the best place to put the region’s international airport. Voters will be asked to decide Nov. 7 whether they agree.

One problem: The Marines say they won’t give up their base for a commercial base – nor will they share it.

The San Diego County Airport Authority was formed in 2003 to address this very issue. The legislation that created the authority came with major tasks:

  • Run the airport.
  • Develop land-use plans for the region’s airports.
  • Put an end to the discussions about whether Lindbergh Field is adequate or not. The law required that a solution be put on the ballot by this November.

    The authority looked at a range of options before settling on Miramar in June. They studied the viability of building a maglev train to a tract of land in Imperial County, 94 miles away. They looked in Riverside County. In Borrego Springs. In North County. In South County. And in East County.

    Ultimately, though, they settled on Miramar. The Marine base was similarly targeted in 1994. By a 52-48 percent vote, voters endorsed the measure. But their decision was advisory, and the move never happened.

    The latest move to Miramar was long touted as a joint-use plan. The authority planned to add two runways at Miramar and let fighter jets and commercial airplanes share airspace.

    But once Miramar became the authority’s official choice in June, the idea of joint use disappeared. And so what was once a solid concept complete with maps, sound contours, a price tag – and unwavering resistance from the military – simply evaporated.

    What’s left, the authority says, is a ballot question that seeks a dialogue with the military about the base’s future. Opponents, however, say it is an attempt to kick the Marines out and take over the base.

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