There are only two certainties when considering San Diego's airport situation. We know for sure that the current airport at Lindbergh Field is outdated and becoming more so, and that San Diegans will vote this November on a proposed replacement.
The questions are far more numerous. The group charged with proposing a solution is looking at nine potential sites and doesn't know how many it will place on the ballot, doesn't know if it will get the military cooperation necessary to keep five of the sites viable, and has yet to release in-depth reports on several of the sites that would detail potential impacts on traffic, noise and the environment.
The last question is of much interest to La Jollans, as one of the sites still awaiting an in-depth review is Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, just a few miles inland. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, which oversees Lindbergh Field and the 16 other airports in San Diego County, will release its report on Miramar and other potential sites within the next two months.
In addition to Miramar, the Airport Authority is considering sites at Naval Air Station North Island, Campo, Borrego Springs, the desert in Imperial County, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in North County, March Air Force Base in Riverside County and the existing airport site at Lindbergh Field. The Airport Authority is required by state law to have some kind of airport solution on the ballot this November for a countywide vote. But the authority board still doesn't know how such a ballot measure might look.
"Quite frankly, I can't tell you what the form the ballot language might take," Airport Authority Chairman Joe Craver said at a public town hall meeting held April 27. "The law on it is very vague. It just says to bring a solution. That could be a 'yes no' vote on airport 'A,' or it could be 'choose between A or B.' It could be multiple choice.' "
Craver said the board would finalize the ballot language in the next two months after all the site reports have been completed and analyzed.
Craver and Airport Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Thella Bowens portrayed the existing location at Lindbergh Field as being too small already and lacking in any real options for expansion. The Airport Authority first started considering replacement options for the 75-year-old Lindbergh Field nearly 40 years ago, Craver said.
Bowens said San Diego International Airport is the busiest single-runway airport in the nation, more than twice as busy as the next busiest single-runway airport, in Fort Meyers, Fla. In terms of the number of passengers to come through the airport each year, San Diego's facility is actually much more comparable to the airport in Tampa, Fla., which handles 19 million passengers per year compared to San Diego's 17.4 million.
In terms of size, however, there is no comparison. Tampa's airport has three full-time runways and takes up 3,300 acres. San Diego International Airport checks in at 661 acres.