Advocates voice concerns as Washington state's aviation commission considers expanding an airport

State officials are planning to expand a smaller airport in Washington to meet the demand for commercial travel. WSDOT’s Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission held a virtual meeting Thursday to discuss the expansion plans.

Earlier this year during Phase I of planning, the aviation commission listed the following six airports as prospects for the expansion:

  • Paine Field
  • Arlington Municipal Airport
  • Bremerton National Airport
  • Sanderson Field
  • Tacoma Narrows Airport
  • Ed Carlson Memorial Field

Now in Phase II of planning, the commission is working to narrow down the list to two airports, ultimately voting for one airport during Phase III.

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Debi Wagner is a member of several organizations, including Quiet Skies Coalition in Burien. The city of Burien offers a unique view of airplanes passing Mount Rainier. However, Wagner said the coalition has been fighting Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on air traffic noise and pollution issues in the city for years.

"When we’re being exposed to these variants pollutants, the noise and emissions on a daily basis all day long every day, we don’t know what the safe level is," said Wagner.

Wagner said the aviation commission’s idea of making an existing airport bigger is not the solution, and worries other communities may soon experience the same concerns people in Burien are experiencing with Sea-Tac.

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"If you spread the problem out, you might lessen our impact somewhat, but you’re going to impact somebody else who is going to have the same problems we have," said Wagner.

Wagner said she believes the only choice the aviation commission should consider is building a new airport in a remote location.

"You have to build it in a way that it’s out away from population and away from where it’s going to impact people. And then other things you can do is you can build systems into that new airport to suck out the emissions that are coming from the tail of the plane," said Wagner. "Follow the FAA’s model of what they did in Denver. They put a new airport on 33,000 acres that was buffered from community members, from sensitive land use— hospitals, daycares, nursing homes."

The aviation commission said it will base it’s final decision on a number of criteria including available land, proximity to transportation and environmental concerns. The group will have more meetings, ultimately leading to a vote for one location to receive the expansion. The winning airport must receive 60 percent of the vote.

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