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.