Despite two studies, warnings from consultants, and two examples of failed airports, proponents of Briscoe Field expansion continue to attempt to mislead and manipulate Gwinnett citizens.
The viability of Briscoe Field as a regional airport was examined in both the City of Atlanta (Hartsfield) and the Gwinnett BOC (IMG studies). These two reports both cast serious doubts on the viability of converting Briscoe Field from a general aviation airport to a regional airport. Concerns included the cost (up to $2.2 billion), environmental, airspace management, expansion limitations (due to acreage), and the instability of the airline industry. In addition C4BG has concerns about traffic congestion, Gwinnett government guaranty of construction bonds, and the overall impact on our quality of life.
MidAmerica Airport, located 30 miles from St Louis International Airport, opened for schedule passenger service in 1997. At that time politicians said they were investing $320 million of taxpayer funds in the community’s future. Today everyone realizes they wasted $320 million and perhaps gambled the community’s future away. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, watch the video and decide for yourself how you would like Gwinnett to proceed.
Branson Mo. Airport completed construction in 2009, expecting 1.5 million passengers per year. The county government backed construction of the privately owned airport with $115 million in taxpayer development bonds. Now the largest private investor, CitiGroup, is threatening foreclosure as the airport continues to operate under a forbearance agreement. Foreclosure or bankruptcy seems highly likely since the private operator has had little success expanding the number of airlines servicing the airport. The airport serviced 92,000 passengers in 2010, far fewer that the 1.5 million forecast when the airport was proposed.
Aside from these two examples, we have to look at the stability of the airline industry. Over the past five years airlines have been consolidating through mergers (Delta/Northwest, Southwest/Airtran), regional airlines (ATA, Eos, Sun Country, Aloha) have ceased operations, the remaining nine airlines have grounded smaller regional jets, and continue to reduce the number of flights operated. Combine this with the fact that airlines don’t sign long-term contracts to operate out of airports, other than their major hubs.
When considering all these facts most reasonable people conclude expanding Briscoe Field is too great a risk for our community and would never deliver the results projected by proponents.