By Noel Braymer, Editor, Western Rail Passenger Review
San Diego no longer calls itself “America’s finest city.” As it is, San Diego is trying to avoid being called America’s most corrupt city. There is of course former San Diego Congressman Randy Cunningham who pleaded guilty to corruption. A City Councilman and Deputy Mayor of San Diego were convicted of accepting bribes from a strip joint owner last year. The city pension plan is 2 billion dollars in the red and under Federal investigation. The Mayor during this time was Dick Murphy, who was re-elected on a technicality despite his write-in challenger getting slightly more votes in December 2004. However Mayor Murphy resigned in disgrace by July 2005. Dick Murphy ran for Mayor claiming he was going to get things done. On the top of his agenda was a new airport to replace Lindbergh Field. A small old airport of 660 acres, it is not able to handle fully loaded jumbo jets and has no room to add a second main runway to handle future expected air traffic growth..
Under Mayor Murphy, a new Airport Commission was created to take over control of Lindbergh Field from the Port Commission with sweeping new powers. For over 4 years more studies were commissioned to study every possible airport site. After years of studies and millions of dollars spent the result is Prop A on this November Ballot. Prop. A is a non-binding measure to see if there is voter support to build a new 3,000 acre airport out of a part of the 23,000 acre Miramar Marine Corp Air Station north of downtown San Diego. Prop A and the whole airport selection process was a waste of time and money. The Military has made it clear they are opposed to any joint use of Miramar. The residents around Miramar are firmly opposed to the idea and a local Congressman sponsored Federal Legislation to prohibit the joint use of Miramar that passed. All five San Diego County Congressmen are opposed to using Miramar for a public airport.
It is becoming next to impossible to build a new airport near a populated area. The reality is, in California there will have to be smarter use of airports and air space. Much of the commercial air traffic in San Diego is very short haul, under 200 miles and often in small commuter planes. Getting better use of scare airport capacity can be as simple as using fewer, bigger planes. Congestion on the ground is as big an issue as in the sky. Lindbergh Field is next to the Coaster and Trolley Tracks. Extending the Trolley to the airport and having the Coaster connect to serve Lindbergh will make it possible for the airport to handle bigger crowds without adding more parking or overloading roadways.
Rail service can connect airports together, reducing the need for many short haul flights and make more distance airports practical for air service. From downtown San Diego the only non-military airports capable of handling jumbo jets are 16 miles away next to the Mexican border. One is Brown Field and the other is the airport for Tijuana. Either airport could be connected by an extension of the Trolley, possibly with express service from Lindbergh Field and downtown San Diego. It would not be practical to use either airport to replace Lindbergh. But they could be used to supplement Lindbergh for flights using jumbo jets. This could reduce pressure on LAX which is where many flights out of San Diego are headed.
San Diego is not alone with airport problems. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) serves all of Southern California for most International and many cross country flights. But LAX is at near capacity now and there is overwhelming opposition to expanding it. Palmdale is one of the few airports that wants to expand. The problem with Palmdale is getting there. Local leaders in the San Fernando Valley and Palmdale are organizing a coalition to improve rail service to the Palmdale Airport. They are looking at improved Metrolink service, a high speed corridor or even a shortcut with a long tunnel east of downtown Los Angeles. The 70 miles trip from downtown Los Angeles to Palmdale is caused by the need to go around mountains heading to the west and north. Palmdale is actually due east of downtown Los Angeles. Such an improved rail link would do more than carry people from Los Angeles to the Palmdale Airport. It would create connections to most of the entire region.