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State Legislator Seeks Delay of Airport Site Vote

State Legislator Seeks Delay of Airport Site Vote

Transportation: Base Closure Process Takes Priority, Plecia Contends

BY CONNIE LEWIS

As the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board works to find an alternate site to replace Lindbergh Field, two legislative proposals could significantly alter that course.

Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, said he intends this week to amend Assembly Bill 2284 to stall the Airport Authority board from putting a site recommendation on a countywide ballot until the federal government concludes its base closure process. Five sites on a short list of seven possible airport locations are active military installations.

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The process, known as BRAC , Base Realignment and Closure , is set for 2005. The Airport Authority board is mandated by state law to make a site recommendation in time to go on the November 2006 countywide ballot. Plescia said the bill, which he introduced in February, will seek postponement of the site recommendation until the 2008 ballot.

“We want to send a message to Washington that we want to keep all the bases open for national security purposes and to benefit the local economy,” Plescia said.

But Joe Craver, chairman of the Airport Authority board, said time is money, and the more time that elapses before the airport is relocated, the more likely it is that the board will have to produce funds for major improvements so Lindbergh Field can accommodate more passengers.

Shortly after the new airport panel took office in January 2003, it estimated Lindbergh needed at least 10 new gates. The master plan also called for an expansion of Harbor Drive to accommodate traffic all of which would cost tens of millions of dollars.

According the most recent analysis, Lindbergh will experience runway delays by 2015 or 2020 when the air passenger count reaches a projected 18.7 million annually. Last year, the count stood at 15.3 million.

No date had been set for construction at Lindbergh, but Craver said the Airport Authority wants to delay making improvements as long as it can to save money that will be needed to build the new airport once a site has been approved by voters.

Delaying the vote to 2008 creates a greater likelihood the Airport Authority would have to spend more money on Lindbergh Field.

“We want to be prudent, but we have to be smart too,” Craver said.

The list of potential sites for relocating the regional airport includes the MCAS Miramar; the adjacent East Miramar; Camp Pendleton; North Island Naval Air Station; March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County; and a site in the Imperial County desert about 80 miles east of Downtown San Diego.

Expanding Lindbergh Field is also a possibility, but studies have shown it would be difficult, if not impossible, to add another runway adjacent to the lone existing runway.

Meanwhile the House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday, May 12, to delay the BRAC process until 2007. But the move might meet opposition, since the Senate Armed Services Committee reportedly wants base closings to begin in 2005. The House committee included the proposal to delay the base closings in its version of a bill that would authorize defense programs for the 2005 fiscal year beginning in October.

Last month, the Airport Authority board found two more sites , one near Campo and another in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park , that merit consideration as possible locations.

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