Fort Worth's Alliance Airport May be Snag in Wright Talks

As negotiations heat up on the Wright Amendment, so far the only point the Fort Worth and Dallas mayors publicly acknowledge agreeing on is the possibility of a regional airport authority.

Those on both sides of the debate agree that a regional authority would include the two commercial passenger airports, Dallas Love Field and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

But what about Fort Worth's Alliance Airport?

Depends on which side of the Metroplex you hail from.

Generally speaking, those close to Cowtown say think again if you want to move the airport into a new quasi-governmental ownership group. But those on the Dallas side say it makes sense to put all of the airports in North Texas under the control of a regional airport authority.

"I don't want a lone ranger out there," Mitchell Rasansky, a Dallas councilman, said in an interview Thursday. "I think everybody needs to be on the same playing field at the same time and playing against the same opponents."

If a major airport -- Alliance is an industrial airport and has no passenger service -- isn't included, then "you're still going to have this come up in the future," Rasansky said. "I don't think you can have a maverick out there. What happens if that maverick out there in 10 years wants to bring in commercial airlines?"

But Fort Worth officials have said differently.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, has said she thinks there would be "a huge fight" over whether to put Alliance into the authority.

The structure of an authority would need to be worked out, and some on both sides question whether one could be set up quickly.

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday gave itself until June 14 to present Congress with a plan to end the squabbles over the Wright Amendment, which limits long-haul flights from Dallas Love Field to cities in Texas and eight other states. Those in favor of repealing the 1979 law say it limits competition and keeps airfares high. However, Wright supporters say the law built D/FW Airport into an economic engine and shouldn't be rescinded.

This week, Fort Worth passed a resolution similar to Dallas', asking Congress to postpone any legislation until after Aug. 1.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and Dallas Mayor Laura Miller are leading the negotiations over the next few months. But they're not saying what else they're considering. Besides a regional authority, the two are expected to discuss options such as a phaseout, limits on growth at Love, connecting and one-stop ticketing from Love, and airport user fees.

"It would be premature to single out any potential option including an authority," Moncrief said in an e-mail Thursday. "As far as Alliance Airport is concerned, if it ain't broke don't fix it. And Alliance Airport ain't broke."

Alliance is owned by Fort Worth and managed by the Hillwood development company. Hillwood executives declined to comment for this story.

The North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, which advocates phasing out the Wright Amendment over two to five years, believes that all city-owned airports in North Texas should be included in a regional authority, said Corey Hill, a spokesman for the chamber.

"We feel like that's just fundamental to all discussions to a potential agreement," Hill said. "You want to have a regional airport authority that has comprehensive responsibilities for governing airports in the region."

Alliance and D/FW airports both saw double-digit shipping growth in 2005.

They also have ties to the world's largest airline. Fort Worth-based American Airlines operates a large hubs at D/FW Airport and has a maintenance base at Alliance.

Hill said that if discussions are going to cover sharing passenger traffic, they should also cover sharing cargo traffic.

"They have a significant cargo business," Hill said. "There's a lot of attention given to Love potentially stealing traffic from D/FW, but no one ever says, 'Well what about the cargo business that Alliance is siphoning off from D/FW?' Those discussions don't come up at the same level of frequency."

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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