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Sun, Jan 15, 2012

Charles M. Schultz Airport To Expand

Strong Economic Contribution Of Airport Draws Support

It's difficult to move forward with an airport improvement program in the current political climate, especially in California. But with the support of its business community, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved an $84 million upgrade to Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport it says will enhance safety, add a new passenger terminal, provide longer runways and allow mid-sized commercial jets to land at the airport, which is located in Santa Rosa.

At the moment, the only commercial service at the airport is offered by Horizon, with five daily flights serving Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland and Seattle. The North Bay Business Journal reports the county plans to attract up to 21 flights per day by 2030. To do that, the plan would extend runway 14/32 by 885 feet to 6,000 feet long, and extend the crosswind runway 1/19 by 200 feet, to 5,204 feet. That, and repairs and safety upgrades, would cost $42 million. The other half of the estimated total would be spent on cargo space, a new terminal and tower improvements once increased traffic justifies the expenditure.

The economic case, based on numbers from the county's planning commission, is a no-brainer. The commission finds that 11 or 12 daily flights by 2015 would mean $282 million in economic activity and 900 jobs. But NIMBYs concerned about air and water pollution and noise are on alert, and the planning commission is already proposing a voluntary curfew to limit early-morning and late-night flights.

The county would depend on 95 percent funding from the FAA.



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