Why the proposed City Centre Airport compromise won’t work

Tonight was I on Alberta Primetime with David MacLean from AEG to discuss the compromise that was proposed recently by the Alberta Aviation Museum in the debate about what to do with the City Centre Airport. The compromise would see one of the two runways closed, to make room for some redevelopment. We didn’t have a lot of time to get into the issue, but we agreed on one thing: a compromise isn’t going to work. City Council needs to make a decision.

There are two runways at the City Centre Airport. There’s 16/34, which has the ILS (instrument landing system), prevents NAIT from expanding, and has the largest impact on the Outer Surface restricting building heights over downtown. The second runway is 12/30, which is slightly longer than 16/34 but lacks the important ILS. The runways are placed in an intersecting “V” configuration.

It’s true that if Council decides to shut the City Centre Airport down, it won’t happen overnight. It’s also true that it’ll take time for any development to be completed. Those two facts aren’t enough to make the proposed compromise work, however:

  • It’s not clear which runway would be shutdown. Clearly 16/34 would make more sense from a development perspective, and a financial one too as it requires about $7 million of investment (part of the $35 million in total required for ECCA over the next ten years).
  • That would largely be dependent on moving the ILS to 12/30, something which may not be possible. Actually, it may not even be desirable given how old the system is – it almost certainly needs to be replaced.
  • Shutting down 12/30 instead doesn’t make a lot of sense either, because height restrictions would still be impacted and NAIT expansion would still be blocked.

I’m told that Edmonton Airports has promised to provide Councillors with a feasibility study on the compromise in time for next week’s Council meeting. It doesn’t really matter though.

The truth is that such a compromise is just an easy way out for Council. If they don’t decide once and for all to shut it down or keep it open, we’ll just keep having this same debate every few years. Or even worse, we’ll end up with some development right next to a crippled airport. Nobody will benefit from either of those scenarios.

City Council must take a bold step to do what’s right for the future of Edmonton. Encourage your City Councillors to vote in favor of closing the City Centre Airport.

  • Leo Miller

    Greetings, came across this from a link on twitter. I don’t live in Edmonton and have not interest either way on this issue. The few times a year I fly to Edmonton on business I use the Leduc airport, which I personally think it too far south (especially since my business resides in north Edmonton) – but also I think the improvements to the freeway system has helped.

    Anyway, I think you are correct. I don’t think a compromise will be very satisfying. A reduced airport footprint would not enable significant redvelopment and would significantly deteriorate the usefulness of the airport.

    But I wonder if getting rid of the airport is really the best way to use the space. Having a commuter air hub in the middle of the city could be a bonus, especially if combined with some enhancements to the area.

    I suppose people have already thought of that.

    If you get rid of the airport, you’ll never get the option back.

    But, if it does go, I would argue for limited development on the space – transform it into a huge park! And if you must, ring it with high-density housing, but keep it green!

    Anyway, the two-cents from an outsider.

    L

  • Thanks for your comment Leo, I appreciate it. I’ve been told by a number of Councillors that they would want any development to be “world class”, so I would hope to see lots of green space.

  • Detrich

    Maq,

    I appreciate your stance. I too have reviewed man compromise plans and thoughts. I too think that though a compromise could work, this debate has gone past this.

    I must say though that you have a couple glaring errors in your post.

    There is no way the ILS on 16/34 would ever be moved to 12/30. I do not know where you got that information from, but in all honesty, whoever told you that was even possible is outright wrong. There is absolutely no room to put the approach lights in the first place, let alone any other technical issue that abounds.

    Secondly, while NAIT may want to expand, there are no plans, no funding, and nothing stopping them from going straight north. The destruction is the same. On one side you are removing hangers, on the other, a soon to be decommissioned bus barn, a soon to be decommissioned TELUS yard, and an easily relocated city and EPCOR yard. There is actually quite a lot of room north for NAIT.

    16/34 does NOT have the largest impact on the downtown. The area uner the apporach of 34 is largely built out. With the ILS on 34, the approach is far more percise. 12/30 has the larger impact on height. Just look at the hellhole under the approach to 30.

    I find your reference to 16/34 being the $7 million baby a bit laughable when you try to juxtapose a move of the IL to 12/30 which is costly in its own. 16/34 does not need $7 million as the equipment in place will serve the field until a GPS approach is fully certified as a precision approach.

    I do not know who you got your informaion from, but please keep it accurate. I am growing weary of pretend aviatiors babbling all over the internet without having a clue as to what they are talking about.

    There is no need to criticize a compromise plan if in the end all one plans to do is pooh pooh it and all options. Just say no. It avoids you looking like you are lying.

  • Hey Detrich, thanks for the comment. I don’t consider myself an aviator – I readily admit that I’m not an expert! Perhaps I was misinformed, and if what I posted was wrong, it wasn’t because I was intentionally trying to mislead.

    I’ve been pushing for accuracy on this issue, which unfortunately has been hard to come by (AEG’s arguments about economic impact and medivac are all highly misleading). The last thing I’d want to do is contribute to the lies.

    That said, I’ll wait until the feasibility study is released before I retract anything. I believe that the information I received is sound, and I’ve come across nothing to the contrary thus far except for your comment.

    It is my understanding that something like the ILS would need to be in place on the runway that remains open. So if 16/34 is closed and moving the ILS is definitely not possible as you suggest, that doesn’t change the fact that 12/30 would need an upgrade of some kind.

    The argument about NAIT going north has been brought up a few times, but I’ve never seen any facts to support it. Both NAIT and the City seem to think it’s not that simple. Do you have a link to something that suggests otherwise?

    Again, thanks for the comment. If you have resources to point me to, I’d appreciate it.

  • Detrich

    If they closed 16/34 and left 12/30 open instead, they would probably implement a GPS approach or the field would be VFR only. A GPS approach by the way is not even close to $7 million. Not even the hundreds of thousands. Also, 12/30 was recently resurfaced and is good for the lifetime of the current lease at current traffic levels.

    The aviator comment is not directed at you but from some of the sources you no doubt contacted. The AEG will mislead. Pro-closure advocates will intentionally mislead as using 12/30 is not a compromise, but an unworkable compromise in every way. They want it completely gone.

    This is why David agreed with you Maq. The compromise would remove not only their goal of scheduled service, but if it is 12/30, it would render the airport unserviceable in all but good weather.

    You should probably ask some of the people actually behind any compromise, not people on either side of the fence. They want this thing a binary 1’s and 0’s, fully open or completely gone discussion.

    I asked an author of one such compromise, and he has 12/30 being a staged closure, but 16/34 being the runway. I think it is the person you and David referenced in the Alberta Primetime discussion. If so, you both are guilty of misrepresenting the compromise on the table.

    NAIT moving north was discussed and proved by Ed Gibbons during the recent executive committee. The city owns the vast majority of that land, and they held the TELUS yard as it was the Ed Tel yard. The bus garage is due for replacement and the transportation master plan shows 107th ave being a dead end on the yellowhead.

    Don’t let the hard core closure advocates fool you with lines of “NAIT expansion can only go west”. That is utterly untrue.

    As for resources, I would point you to no more than talking with any compromise author, as well as hitting the Millner Library. Decidedly low tech for the twitter team, but it has a large array of discussions on everything ECCA.

  • Detrich, and anyone else who stumbles on this thread: the Councillor’s Q&A has been released. In it, the question about the compromise is asked and answered. You’ll find that everything I posted above is accurate, with two exceptions: that the ILS cannot be moved to 12/30, and that 16/34 requires about $6 million of investment, not $7 million.

    http://bit.ly/3ks1m