California Airport Sites Would Cost Billions

Dec. 13--SAN DIEGO -- Constructing a new commercial airport near Campo or in Imperial County and linking it to central San Diego County would require more than $10 billion in high-speed rail, utility and roadway construction, according to a report reviewed Monday.

The report, presented to a planning committee of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, showed an Imperial County site would require $13.2 billion in rail, utility and roadway enhancements while one in Campo would need an investment of $10.2 billion.

Most of the costs would be in construction of a magnetic levitation train, a potential link now being studied by a consultant at the request of U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego. Filner helped secure funding in the most recent transportation bill passed by Congress to study construction of a train powered through magnetic levitation technology.

Building a bullet train to Imperial County would cost an estimated $10.6 billion, while building one to Campo is estimated to cost about $8.1 billion.

Construction of a new airport itself is projected to cost somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion. The new airport in Denver, the nation's newest airport that is comparable in size to what the authority wants to build, cost a little more than $5 billion when it was completed a few years ago.

Authority board member Xema Jacobson said the financial projections represent the first step in determining the feasibility of airport sites in Campo or Imperial. A high-speed train also could serve as a cargo carrier from the Unified Port of San Diego to Imperial County, which could result in lessening the costs of construction for the airport authority.

Campo, Imperial and an expansion of downtown San Diego's existing Lindbergh Field are the only civilian sites that remain on the authority's original list of 32 potential new airport locations.

The authority says it needs a dual-runway airport encompassing about 3,000 acres to meet the region's future air cargo and passenger demand.

Lindbergh, the nation's busiest single-runway airport, is forecast to be unable to handle expected growth in passenger and cargo demand by about the year 2020. The authority is required by the state Legislature to come up with a recommendation for a new or expanded airport by next year. Whatever it ultimately decides will go before San Diego County voters in the form of an advisory vote in November 2006.

A fourth civilian site, one near Borrego Springs, is officially still on the list but is not being further studied because of its remote location and only existing link being two-lane highways from the south and west.

About to be studied are possible "shared use" airports at three county military bases, Camp Pendleton, North Island Naval Air Station and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. The bases also will be examined to see if any can accommodate an entirely new airport. Such an airport would be built with a combination of federal grants and airport revenues derived from lease agreements with vendors, airlines and a small passenger facility charge attached to each airline ticket.

No formal action was taken by the committee on Monday. It did, however, direct staffers to report back on Jan. 23 with a full list of possible single-runway airport sites that could serve as a supplement to Lindbergh, said Angela Shafer-Payne, head of strategic planning.

Board member Mary Sessom last week asked the authority to take another look at a site east of Escondido known as Rancho Guejito. The site was considered in 2002 but dropped.