Bill would create commission to consider airport expansions

Emma Epperly
WNPA News Bureau

Creation or expansion of an airport in the state to relieve the stress of a growing demand at SeaTac would be the focus of the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission created by legislation passed in the Senate on Monday.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the ninth busiest airport in the U.S. and 19th in air cargo volume in North America with traffic forecasted to continue growing, according to a legislative staff report. In 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration funded the Puget Sound Regional Council to look at aviation in the area and help with future planning.
The Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission would look at potential airport sites and create a short list of six by January 2020.
Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, spoke in support of the bill, noting Moses Lake has an under-utilized airport that could be a good fit.
“We have the longest landing strip this side of the Mississippi,” Warnick said in reference to Grant County International Airport.
The bill passed the Senate on a 45-1 vote.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, was the lone opposition vote.
The broad language in the bill would allow for Paine Field Airport in Snohomish County to be considered for expansion, which is something Liias opposes.
Paine Field is already undergoing expansions to passenger travel and Liias said he would not support any additional expansions there.
Liias said he does support expansions to meet Washington’s needs at airfields like the one in Moses Lake that could handle the increased traffic.
The house’s companion bill, House Bill 1683, received bipartisan support in committee hearings.
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, is the prime sponsor and has SeaTac in her district.
Co-sponsor — and the only professional pilot in the Legislature — Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, introduced a package of bills aimed at improving aviation safety, funding and innovation.
In the House Transportation Committee Hearing, Steve Edmiston, a member of the state Department of Commerce aviation impact study committee, testified in support of the bill.
“I call this a ‘what’s not to like’ bill because of the statewide economic impacts that this bill can create,” Edmiston said.
Economic impacts are “no longer reserved for an isolated piece of geography,” he said. “That has been our model at Sea-Tac since 1947.”
The commission would comprise a member from each from the state Departments of Commerce and Transportation-Aeronautics Division, as well as members from the private sector, metropolitan planning organizations and various ports, among others.
There would be 13 voting and two nonvoting positiions.
The bill now moves to the House for consideration.