State Rep: ‘None of these locations are suitable’ for a future airport
Washington state elected officials have narrowed the location of a new two-runway airport to three rural areas in either Pierce or Thurston County, sparking intense opposition from locals, including a rally of approximately 100 residents at the Olympia Capitol Building last week pleading for new location proposals.
According to Jason Rantz, the acting chairman of the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC), Warren Hendrickson, stated he believes none of the locations will move forward.
“I think the chair is right,” said State Representative Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake) on The Jason Rantz Show. “None of these locations are suitable for what we’re looking for: A new commercial airport. We’re talking about an airport similar to SeaTac. We made this commitment. It was about two or three weeks ago that we decided we were going to find a bipartisan solution to this.”
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“We’ve drafted a new bill to kick the restart of this commission,” Dent continued. “To give them new criteria and new direction on how we’re going to look for a site if there is a site available for a new airport.”
Despite Hendrickson’s belief, the decision over a new airport belongs to CACC’s 11-member voting commission. Most of the board comprises officials from established airports, including Hendrickson, who is the senior manager of Olympia Regional Airport.
CACC had been informed that state law in Washington prohibits any site for a new airport to be on or near a military base, as it could hinder operations and training. One of the mentioned locations — Joint Base Lewis-McChord — confirmed that a two-runway airport nearby would prevent the base from hitting its mission requirements.
“The next thing is, our airports in the future most likely are going to look different with new technology, new aircraft so that that will change some of these things,” Dent said. “But you know this is all about Sea-Tac reaching capacity. It’s estimated we’ll be at capacity by 2032. That’s a concern, that means what we have is what we have. As our state continues to grow, there’s going to be a demand for air travel.”
Nearly three years ago, the Port of Seattle created a myriad of projects to help keep Sea-Tac afloat with the increase in passengers and travelers throughout the region, including a $658.3 million renovation of the airport’s North Satellite facility, the development of a $968 million International Arrivals Facility; and plans for 19 additional gates, a second terminal, and expanded cargo facilities.
But now, in 2022, those solutions have felt more like a Band-Aid than a permanent fix.
“The one thing that we have not done in this country or in our state is protect our airports,” Dent said. “We build an airport, we put it out there where it’s not going to bother anybody. And then, we let people build up around it and pretty soon, guess what? They have an issue with the airport. If you look at the pictures of SeaTac in 1947 when they built it, it was pretty wide open. Not so much today, right? So those are the things we have to look at.”
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But as the discourse for a new airport wanes on, Dent acknowledged that going forward, CACC will need to do a better job with public outreach.
“We all know that virtual is not the best way to reach out, and it just didn’t reach enough people until, all of a sudden, those sites were on the table, “Dent said.
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