A group of volunteers tasked with advising the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority on reasons why certain sites may or may not be suitable places to move the regional airport is recommending that one site near Borrego Springs be eliminated from the list of possibilities.
During a meeting of the Public Working Group in mid-February, the reasons they gave for wanting to scotch the desert site centered on it being roughly a two-hour drive from San Diego.
In a show of hands, 10 of about 15 Working Group members who attended the meeting voted to make the recommendation. An Airport Authority committee will take the recommendation into consideration during one of its upcoming meetings in late February or early March. The agency has been mandated to put its own site-relocation recommendation before the county’s voters in the November 2006 election.
Active military bases within the county currently dominate the airport agency’s short list of potential relocation sites , Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, along with adjacent East Miramar, and Naval Air Station North Island. But the agency’s board has said that it will not study them until a preliminary list of military installations that might be axed during the Base Realignment and Closure process, known as BRAC, is released in mid-May.
March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, which is jointly used by the military and commercial airline companies, is also on the short list, as are sites near Campo and the Imperial County desert. Expanding Lindbergh Field is also among the possibilities.
“The airlines like airports located within a 45-minute travel time (of major population centers),” said John Chalker, managing director of LM Capital Group, a member of both the Public Working Group and ASAP-21, a business group formed to support the regional airport’s move.
“I’ve learned that in speaking with representatives from two of (Lindbergh Field’s) major carriers, United and American,” he added.
Selling the airlines on an airport relocation site is important, since they will be called on to foot part of the bill for the new facility.
Chalker said he would like to see the group recommend that the Imperial County site also be taken off the short list, since it is about a two-hour drive from Downtown. Yet the Working Group was divided on that suggestion during its last meeting.
While there is the possibility that the Imperial County site could be accessed more quickly by high-speed rail, no such plans are in the works.
Chalker and other ASAP-21 members also object to the idea that taxation revenue generated from a major airport would go to another county.