Airport advised to stay out of Kincaid Park
That was the general consensus of some 80 people who considered six proposals presented by airport officials and their consultants at a meeting Nov. 14.
In small work groups, invited state lawmakers, Anchorage Assembly members, business owners, ski club representatives and others were asked a series of questions by airport officials, who are crafting a master plan for Anchorage International to guide its development though the next two decades.
By 2020, airport officials are projecting a near tripling in cargo operations at the state-owned airport and more than double the amount of passenger flights.
The questions now facing Anchorage are how to get ready for the forecasted boom and at what cost, either environmentally or economically.
Proposals from the $1.5 million federally funded master plan ranged from doing nothing to closing the airport and moving it across Knik Arm to Point MacKenzie. In between those alternatives were proposals that included building a new north-south runway adjacent to the existing runway; expanding the airport and developing a new facility at Fire Island or Point MacKenzie; or fully developing Anchorage International beyond its existing boundaries to Kincaid Park, where a new east-west runway would be built, displacing popular bike, hiking and ski trails.
The latter proved extremely unpopular with many in attendance who said it would never pass muster with Anchorage residents, who would have to vote for such a measure.
One in 10 Anchorage residents are employed by an airport-related business, according to airport officials.
Anchorage is one of the busiest cargo airports in the United States, averaging nearly 520 cargo flights weekly.
Some 2.7 million tons of cargo passed through Anchorage last year. Projections, based on data from aircraft manufacturers, put the number of tons at 7.5 million by 2020, said Jeffrey Mishler, associate vice president of HNTB, an Alexandria, Va.-based aviation consulting firm hired by the state.
Passenger numbers are expected to more than double from 2.2 million annually to 4.5 million in that period, Mishler said.
Based on projected growth, there will be a need for a four-fold increase in cargo facilities, as well as a 25 percent increase in other aviation-related facilities, according to the state studies.
Expanding the airport only within its existing boundaries would not meet the needs of the forecasted growth by 2020, Mishler said.
Several people, including Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, felt the projected growth was overly optimistic. Some airline industry officials also have disputed aircraft makers’ claims of healthy industry increases for the next 20 years.
Each proposal reviewed Nov. 14 looked at, among other things, noise, economic impacts and development costs, which ranged from $1.2 billion to more than $6 billion.
Airport Director Mort Plumb and Mishler say that whatever alternative is chosen, it is simply a plan, not a "commitment."
Other alternatives could be looked at, including using the Wasilla, Palmer or Kenai airports to complement Anchorage airport operations, Plumb said.
Plumb is expected to announce the airport’s final recommendation Nov. 26 at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon. A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at the WestCoast International Inn.
Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 17.