Sorry, this took a bit longer to get to than I wanted. I was working on a column that should go up tonight and a couple of other pressing things.
But to follow my last post, I’d like to make it simple: There’s two great, though majorly flawed, assumptions underlying the Union-Tribune ‘s and others’ insistence that we construct a massive new airport somewhere within 50 miles of the city’s center.
The assumptions are dependent on each other.
|‘Honey, do you hear that?’ Photo: Sam Hodgson|
The first is that demand will go up so much and so fast that Lindbergh Field will, within the next ten years, reach capacity. And then, it will become congested. And then, our economy will suffer.
The second major assumption is that you have to build a massive, two-runway, Denver-like aviation wonderland in order to handle all this traffic.
The collective acceptance of these two assumptions by a few relatively powerful people led us to that stupid ballot measure in 2006 that advocated some kind of bizarre partnership between the Marines and the city to share the only plot of land within 50 miles that could possibly have enough room for this dream: Miramar.
But enough on that.
We’ve already challenged the first assumption appropriately: There is simply little evidence that the airport is rapidly approaching capacity.
But let’s just roll over for it. Regardless of the argument, let’s drink it in, swish it around and swallow it like any ol’ mind-altering drug and delight in the delusions that follow.
If we accept that Lindbergh is on a crash course to insufficiency, then what do we do.
We first need to accept some truths about our community. First off: Miramar Marine Corps Air Station is out as a possible site for a new airport. It’s just not going to happen. Maybe in the past it would have worked out — it was far enough away from the city proper that its neighbors couldn’t kill it.
But even if the Marines leave, the neighbors and surrounding businesses just won’t let it happen. Qualcomm, the region’s biggest business, basically threatened to leave if the powers that be tried to put an airport at Miramar. It was unworkable even without the fact that the Navy and Marines were intolerant of the concept. The “joint use” idea was predicated on the idea that Miramar eventually phased out fighter jet training on the land. That’s not going to happen.
So get over it.
Secondly, accept that there is no other place within 80 miles where a major airport like the one they dreamed of could fit. Nowhere. As we’re told in countless luncheons and conferences, San Diego is bound by borders, mountains, oceans and Marines.
So, we don’t have to decide where to move the airport in the county. We have to decide whether to build an airport outside the county or not. Very simple. Imperial County wanted the big airport. Either we build it out there or we don’t. That’s it.
So given that reality, we don’t need to keep fretting at all. We can either start to truly decide whether we want to build a rail line or drive all the way to Imperial County to be able to enjoy a massive airport, or we can look at our situation and try to make the best of it.
Other communities in the world do that all the time. They take their unique geography and just deal with it. In Japan, they decided they needed a huge airport, so they built an island for it.
I don’t think that’s going to work here, but we can adapt. We have to decentralize the airport and its authority. Perhaps the airport authority itself should be housed in, say, Kearny Mesa. There it can really see its job as maximizing and making efficient all of the region’s airports — Lindbergh being the biggest asset of them all but not the only focal point.
Looking at the region as a whole, they can decide where they should put general aviation, cargo and other major operations to ease congestion at Lindbergh. They can work on innovative proposals like the cross-border terminal. But their mission would be to maximize the efficiency and convenience of Lindbergh while evaluating other assets and ensuring we are using them to their full potential.
If you are afraid of congestion at Lindbergh, take a look at the stats, chill out, and then go support a region-wide evaluation of how each and every asset can be used more and better.