Spokane Journal of Business

SIA to study angle of third runway

Study to help guide land-use planning on West Plains

  • Print Article

Spokane International Airport says it plans to conduct a study soon that will help determine the alignment of its long-anticipated third runway and help guide land-use planning efforts on the West Plains.

SIA has received a $150,000 grant from the Washington state Department of Transportation to conduct the study, says airport director Neal Sealock. SIA currently is determining the scope of work to be done in the study, and plans to issue a request for proposals within the next month to find a consultant to do the study, Sealock says.

Later, SIA plans to submit the study to the Federal Aviation Administration, with the hope that the FAA will make a decision on the alignment issue so that planning for the runway project can move forward, he says.

Were going to ask (the FAA) to make a decision on the alignment, but we have to get them the study first, Sealock says. He says he doesnt know when the runway will be needed, and that it will be built sometime in the future.

SIA currently has two runways. The main runway, called 3-21, is located on the eastern side of the main terminal and runs at a diagonal southeast-to-northeast angle. The other, smaller runway, called 7-25, bisects the southwestern portion of the main runway.

Runway names are derived by their compass positions. For instance, aircraft approaching the 3 end of runway 3-21 are on a heading of about 30 degrees, while those approaching it from the 21 end are at a heading of about 210 degrees.

In the master plan it approved in 2002, SIA included a conceptual alignment for the third runway. The runway, to be called 5-23, would be located slightly northwest of the main terminal, running to the west at an angle parallel to Fairchild Air Force Bases runway. A second alignment also has been proposed, however, in which the new runway would parallel 3-21.

The state is funding the runway alignment study as part of its growth-management efforts, because the orientation of the new runway will impact development around the airport significantly, says airport spokesman Todd Woodard. The alignment of the runway also will affect the use of airspace, which SIA shares with Fairchild and Felts Field, in Spokane Valley, he says.

Its a great land-use tool to allow commercial and residential activity as it pertains to our environment to take hold, because then you know exactly where the runway is going to go, Woodard says.

The runway configuration outlined in SIAs master plan is within Spokane Countys airport overlay zone, where certain land-use regulations apply in addition to the countys normal zoning rules for light-industrial land, says John Pederson, assistant director at Spokane Countys planning and building department. Thus, some properties outside of the proposed 5-23 alignment configuration, which currently arent included in the overlay zone, would be subject to overlay regulations if the runway configuration were changed so it would parallel 3-21, he says.

Once the eventual alignment is determined, well know what the site specifics will be and which properties would be impacted, Pederson says.

The change could affect large-lot residential properties, he says. Some commercial uses also would be limited, because the airport overlay zone has tighter restrictions on building height and density. For instance, a school or hotel isnt allowed within the airport overlay zone, he says.

Studying the runway alignments and their land-use implications is especially important in light of the controversy that has surrounded land-use decisions on the West Plains in recent months, Pederson says.

In March of 2006, county officials gave approval for some development on the West Plains that SIA officials had said was within the crash zone of its proposed runway and therefore shouldnt be allowed.

Last fall, county commissioners declared a temporary moratorium on residential development on light-industrial zoned land on the West Plains, after officials from SIA and Fairchild expressed concerns that such activity could encroach on airport crash zones and hinder Fairchilds operations. The commissioners replaced and expanded that ban in March and adopted an interim regulation that prohibits such developments over a larger area, thereby reversing an earlier decision they made to open up the light-industrial zone to a range of commercial and residential uses.

Joint land-use studyAnother study that will affect future land-use decisions on the West Plains is a joint land-use (JLUS) study that the county and Fairchild are conducting.

The county has obtained a total of $244,000 in federal and local funding for the study, which involves examining past, current, and future land-use trends in the vicinity of Fairchild; the noise impact of current and future Fairchild missions; and how SIAs future operations, including a third runway, could affect Fairchilds missions, says Jim Falk, associate planner at the county.

The county plans to issue a request for proposals next month for a consultant with experience in land-use planning, acoustic analysis, and military airport operation characteristics to help conduct the JLUS study, Falk says. It hopes that will be completed by the end of next September, he says.

The study will include a recommended strategy for protecting Fairchild from incompatible land uses, he says. The county will submit those recommendations to local municipalities, with the hope that they will accept and adopt them.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

  • Emily Proffitt

  • Follow RSS feed for Emily Proffitt

Read More

Sign up for our E-mail updates

including the
Morning Edition

Join our list