Airport officials say new structures will help serve passenger traffic. Locals fear that expansion may worsen traffic problems.
Daily Pilot 5/10/08
By Alan Blank
New airport construction slated to begin Aug. 1 pleases some, but others are afraid of its potential to cause more flights over their houses.
A third terminal with six gates and two new parking structures are designed to help John Wayne Airport deal with an increase in passenger traffic over the next few years, but local anti-airport expansion groups worry the new infrastructure may spur more airline flights.
“We kind of have the attitude ‘build it and they will come,’ so we’re waiting to see if [the construction] will be an invitation for more traffic,” said Melinda Seely, president of anti-airport expansion group Airfair.
Under the settlement agreement between the airport and the community, John Wayne is allowed to serve 10.8 million passengers per year until the agreement expires in 2015.
Last year, the airport served about 10 million travelers. It could have served more, but the lack of parking and terminals kept that number down, according to airport officials.
“We probably wouldn’t go up to 10.8 million because we like to have some room, but I would definitely imagine that we would at least be up to 10.3 [million] by the end of 2011,” said Jenny Wedge, an airport spokeswoman. “The demand is there, so as soon as we have the facilities to provide for them, we will increase the passenger levels.”
County Supervisor John Moorlach said he is working with as many local groups as he can — including Stop Polluting Our Newport, Airfair and the Airport Working Group — to create a strategy for stopping the airport from drawing more than 10.8 million annual passengers.
“We need to do our best to present a unified front and renew the settlement agreement as it is,” Moorlach said, citing his commitment to finding alternatives to airport expansion such as ground transportation to other regional airports such as Ontario and Palmdale.
If Orange County can develop a workable plan for alleviating some of the demand for John Wayne Airport, then it can make a good argument for stopping growth, according to Moorlach.
Airlines will pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to expand John Wayne Airport’s flight offerings, Moorlach said, but if demand goes down, then expansion will be unnecessary.
He considers the planned construction important, though.
“It’s not an expansion. It’s a remodeling to get the airport up to where it should be,” Moorlach said of the current project. “You can’t park at John Wayne Airport on a Wednesday — the parking lot is full. We have a luggage transfer system that’s overused. It’s at capacity.”
Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder recently assigned Deputy City Manager Don Lamm to oversee airport issues on behalf of the city.
City Council members Katrina Foley, Allan Mansoor and Wendy Leece are all part of Airfair, and the remaining members also have a record of being anti-expansion.
Summer travelers planning on flying out of John Wayne may find it difficult to park at the airport after construction begins because a 1,200-space structure will be demolished and replaced with a smaller temporary lot.
“We’re encouraging passengers to get dropped off at the airport because parking is already a challenge. During construction, we’re taking away about 500 spaces,” Wedge said.
Airport funds will cover the majority of the project, which is expected to cost $572 million and see completion sometime in 2011.
Once construction is finished, passengers will have more parking, less traffic and shorter wait times on the tarmac, Wedge said.
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ALAN BLANK may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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MSeely wrote on May 9, 2008 9:02 AM:
" AirFair appreciates the continuing interest and coverage of the Daily Pilot re John Wayne Airport. We believe containing the Airport should be the number one priority for all those who live under or near the flight path. Not just Newport Beach and Costa Mesa but Tustin, Orange, Villa Park and Santa Ana, all are hugely impacted by air traffic. "
cameronjolly wrote on May 9, 2008 6:44 PM:
" I cannot express how relieved I was when I learned that increasing the number of gates, baggage systems and parking stalls at the airport is not an expansion. Instead, according to Orange County Supervisor Tom Moorlach "it’s a remodel." Thank goodness. We sure dodged that expansion bullet. I think that all politicians could learn from Mr. Moorlach. We never have to "increase" taxes again, we will simply remodel them to accommodate more spending. Maybe we should remodel the great park (RIP) to include an airport.