Saturday, August 25, 2007

Officials want 2nd Atlanta airport scenario studied

By Mike Pare
Deputy Business Editor

Lovell Field officials said Tuesday they want a nearly $700,000 master plan update to include a scenario in which the facility lands a possible second Atlanta airport.

"Atlanta will be going through the planning process. We'd like to be that second airport," said Jim Hall, a Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority member.

Larry Wells, another panel member, said at a meeting of the authority that Atlanta's airport is expected to be at capacity in about six years.

Airport officials approved the consulting firm of RS&H to do the Lovell Field master plan that should take about 18 months.

Mary Soderstrum, an RS&H official, said the study for Chattanooga's airport will look at a variety of scenarios relating to air travelers, including capturing Atlanta traffic. The 20-year master plan also will identify short- and medium-term needs such as parking, air cargo and general aviation, officials said.

Earlier this month, the federal government awarded Atlanta a $1 million grant to study getting more flights in and out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The study is expected to consider a possible second airport.

The chairman of the Georgia state Senate's Transportation Committee then suggested the best way to stem overcrowding at the Atlanta airport could be to send air traffic to Chattanooga.

"My suggestion is to create the maglev (train) from Atlanta to Lovell Field in Chattanooga and expand (Chattanooga's airport), which is underutilized," said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

About 86 million people went through Atlanta's airport in 2006, compared to around half a million in Chattanooga.

For Chattanooga to be considered as an Atlanta reliever airport, it would have to be able to handle millions of passengers, officials indicated.

To do that, the facility would have to be made much larger. It is bounded by major roads, a creek and a rail line, all of which are impediments to expansion.

But Mike Landguth, Chattanooga airport president, said there needs to be a vision of what Lovell field would have to look like to handle that much traffic.

"People have to have a long-term vision," he said.

E-mail Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com

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