Lawmakers Oppose Southwest Proposal to Leave Seattle's Airport

SEATTLE (AP) -- Both U.S. senators and five other members of the state's congressional delegation have denounced Southwest Airlines' proposal to leave Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and move to a King County-run airport.

In a letter to King County Executive Ron Sims, the seven Democrats said the plan could waste taxpayer dollars and threaten 3,800 jobs at Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air.

''At a time when the city, county and state are desperately searching for funding solutions for critical regional projects - including several projects within King County - we should not be needlessly creating more projects that could make a call on scarce taxpayer dollars,'' the lawmakers said in a letter dated July 29.

The authors were Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Reps. Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen and Adam Smith.

The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce also chimed in, saying the plan bucks nearly two decades of airport traffic planning and is not in the best interest of the traveling public.

''We do not see the wisdom of two commercial airports ... simultaneously competing for scarce federal and regional infrastructure and security dollars,'' the chamber said in a letter dated Aug. 4.

Sims wrote his own letter earlier this week to mayors and community groups, saying all objections to the Southwest proposal would be explored.

''It is my sincerest hope that you and the people of this region take time to study the proposal, as I will, before coming to a conclusion about whether it is worthwhile,'' he wrote.

Last month, Dallas-based Southwest said it wants to build a new $130 million terminal at Boeing Field and run up to 85 daily flights there, compared with 38 now at Sea-Tac, to avoid rising per-passenger costs that would help pay for Sea-Tac's $4.2 billion, 10-year expansion.

The airline has said it would pay less at Boeing Field, which serves private planes, cargo jets, and Boeing Co. commercial and military aircraft operations.

Meanwhile, the Port of Seattle said it is putting about $580 million in airport-expansion projects on hold until it knows whether Southwest moves.

The congressional letter was not signed by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, whose district includes Boeing Field. ''Jim's gathering information and wants to understand the issue from both sides,'' his spokesman, Mike DeCesare, said.

Republican Reps. Doc Hastings of Pasco, David Reichert of Bellevue and Cathy McMorris of Spokane also did not sign it.

Once Sims' staff studies issues like noise and road improvements that would be needed, he may ask the King County Council for money to conduct a more exhaustive study of the Southwest plan.

''Let's take a deep breath and do a real analysis,'' said Kurt Triplett, Sims' chief of staff. ''All we want to do is have people give us time to study this.''

King County Councilman Dwight Pelz said he thinks even that would be a waste.

''If someone said, 'Let's study putting a firecracker factory in the middle of Seattle Center,' I'd say, 'No, let's not,' '' he said. ''There are certain ideas that you don't need to study. This is a bad idea.''