Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Airport Open House and Draft Plans Likely Overestimate Air Demand

Now that the Delta-Seaport fiasco is hopefully out of the City's system, the latest wish is for runway expansion to serve commercial flights.

This City is hosting an open house tomorrow:
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Airport Terminal Building
2990 25th Street SE, Salem Oregon
It will have information on:
Master Plan Status
Environmental Process Overview
Project Justification
Runway Alternatives Considered
and Next Steps
Here's the preferred expansion alignment:

It's difficult not to be cynical about the "need" for this. This is a multi-million dollar project and the money could much more usefully be spent on something sustainable.

To get a sense for some of the "optimistic" thinking behind it, take a gander at these excerpts.

The forecasts assume a compound growth rate based on past history. But with increasing petroleum costs both from peak oil scarcity and from a likely carbon tax, past growth is not likely to be duplicated.

And indeed in comparing projections from 1997, even the study's authors find that the past is not a good guide!

But nevertheless, here's a table of just insane exponential growth that's actually included in the study! They say outright that it is not the preferred growth model, but if it is so clearly unmoored from plausible reality, why include it?

This is a bike blog and it's just not possible to read all the airport stuff closely. Hopefully someone who is on the committee or works in an airport-related industry can comment and clarify.

(I scanned and cherry-picked the most egregious examples of craziness; they may not be representative. Still, I think they are adequate to show that the projections are at the very least on the high, high, upper-end of the most "optimistic" confidence bar. It seems impossible that this represents a sober analysis for a future with diminished expectations.)

The study documents can be found here. The Statesman piece, which omits any cost estimates, is here.


Anonymous said...

The new SJ commenting system, which uses facebook, might be working. The very first comment on the story seems particularly well informed:

"Neither the $6 Million PDX North Runway Extension grant nor the $4.25 Million grant for a PDX Deicing project, both funded via Connect Oregon, prevented PDX from plummeting to an operational count that marks a 25 year low, commensurate with 1986-87 levels. In 2010 it logged 223,068 operations, 100,000 fewer flights than it did in 1997 when it reached an all time high of 327,731.

Eugene Mahlon Field also received money from Connect Oregon - $4,103,461 for an air cargo facilities improvement project. Even so, its annual operational count has plunged by more than 50 percent, from over 161,000 in 1991 to 73,930 in 2009."

etc, etc...the writer compiles a compelling list of runway extensions, their costs, and consequent declines in flight volumes!

Anonymous said...

Today's article has cost estimates:

"Salem city planners are trying to complete the project without using city funds.

Instead, the funding strategy relies on about $550,000 in state grant money to complete a master plan and environmental assessment.

After the process is completed, the city is hopeful the FAA will commit $9 million for the design and construction of the runway.

The city was awarded a $2.6 million grant in 2008 to extend McNary Field's 5,800-foot runway an additional 700 to 800 feet.

The grant was part of the Connect Oregon II Transportation Program, a $100 million statewide project to improve the flow of commerce, eliminate delays and improve safety.

Thirty projects were funded through Connect Oregon II, and 18 are complete.

Since that time, the FAA has approved a larger expansion and the project would extend the runway to 7,000 feet for $11 million."