BY AHMED HAQUE
Chairman of the Board
CARLSBAD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
For more than 95 years the Chamber has been a convener of discussion around the biggest issues facing Carlsbad. A contemporary example involves the future of the McClellan–Palomar Airport. Our local airport turned 59 years old in March and the County of San Diego has prepared a Master Plan Update to guide improvements at the airport for the next 20 years.
The principal improvements described in the Master Plan include the relocation of the runway and taxiway slightly to the north and increasing the separation between them, installation of features at each end of the runway to prevent overruns, and adding 200 or 800 feet to the east end of the runway. These improvements, all within the current airport boundaries, are contemplated to better accommodate an increasing number of jets with longer wingspans as well as improve the safety of airport operations.
The Master Plan has been the subject of much debate in the community, not only about the specific improvements and their purpose, but about the city’s ability to regulate an airport owned by the County of San Diego. Residents and businesses are concerned about noise, traffic and other adverse impacts from the Master Plan improvements.
The Chamber has been studying this issue for several years, speaking with industry experts and local business leaders. We believe the Master Plan improvements are necessary to preserve the viability of the airport and facilitate increased commercial aviation options that benefit local businesses and residents alike. Anyone who has flown Cal Jet Elite or previous service from Palomar appreciates the convenience.
The airport is a significant driver of economic activity, generating over 2,500 jobs, $345M in business revenue and $20M in state and local taxes each year. Some of this occurs on the airport property, but both airport employees and visitors arriving at the airport spend their dollars at local businesses and thus multiply the effect by creating jobs in other industries.
A robust local economy generates taxes and allows the city to provide superior services that contribute to our high quality of life. But all agree that excessive noise and traffic do just the opposite. While the county has found that any significant impacts of the Master Plan can be mitigated, the city and residents have questions about the assumptions and methods behind those findings as well as other concerns they would like addressed. The Chamber is grateful for their diligence and looks forward to receiving additional information from the county that we hope will alleviate these concerns.
Over 95% of Chamber members we surveyed will fly from Palomar if given the option. Implementation of the Master Plan improvements will be a long process as the final design and funding source are not yet determined. The Chamber will continue to monitor this issue and work alongside the county to attract and retain local air service.