CARLSBAD— The Palomar Airport Advisory Committee met on Sept. 18 to receive a progress report on the airport’s Master Plan update.
The current Master Plan is set to expire this year and was drafted in 1997. The new plan will create the blueprint for the airport for the next 20 years, said Lee Ann Lardy, project manager for the County of San Diego.
Whether or not the runway will be extended is still undecided.
“The county is not committed to any particular result and at this point can’t predict what will ultimately be approved, whether it’ll be a runway extension or not,” said Lardy.
Any updates to the Master Plan will not guarantee results. Instead, it paves the way for the possibility, said Peter Drinkwater, director of airports for the county of San Diego. Each particular project will still need additional approval and funding.
In a feasibility study published by the county, officials estimated a $163.2 million increase to the local economy over the next 20 years if airport improvements, including a runway extension, are approved.
The cost estimate of the proposed expansion varied from $22.5 to $69.7 million, depending on how far the runway would be extended.
Olivier Brackett, airport manager at Palomar Airport said the most cost effective runway extension would be 900 feet since a 200 feet extension doesn’t make much of a difference and a 1,200 feet extension is too expensive for the benefits.
The sizes of the planes using the airport wouldn’t change but they’d be able to carry more fuel, which means they could travel farther, said Drinkwater.
“The airport isn’t striving to become Lindbergh Field, it’s not striving to become John Wayne, it’s striving to become the best airport it can be within the footprint of what we have for space and to serve the communities in North County,” said Drinkwater.
Planes would be able to take off sooner, which would mean quieter takeoffs and landings.
The airport serves 50,000 passengers a year, according to Brackett.
Currently, the county is creating alternative plans, which take into account Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety standards, community concerns and interests of the airline companies that operate out of the airport.
“It’s very complex and it is taking a little bit longer than our schedule had originally anticipated,” Lardy said of the alternative development plans.
The county is midway through finishing the development process and is following FAA regulation guides to be eligible to receive federal funding. Once that is complete, the county will seek approval from the state.
State approval will hinge on regulations set forth by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
As part of the process, the county has taken steps to engage the community.
Public workshops have been held and the next one is set for an unspecified date in November. Lardy also encourages community members to sign up to receive email updates and direct mailers.
After the Master Plan gets environmental approval from the state, it will go in front of the County Board of Supervisors for approval, likely in summer 2016.
The Master Plan deals with the airport as a whole but each proposed project would need to get additional CEQA approval on a project-by-project basis, which could be years down the line, said Drinkwater.
The public will have a chance to speak during each step of the Master Plan Update and when particular projects go in front of the board.