Consultants recommend $106M for airport upgrades - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Consultants recommend $106M for airport upgrades

November 5th, 2020 SanTan Sun News
Consultants recommend $106M for airport upgrades

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Airport needs up to $106 million in infrastructure improvements in order to accommodate growing flight traffic demand, according to a recent assessment of the city’s facilities.
An update to the airport’s master plan has identified 45 construction projects that consultants believe should be done sometime over the next 20 years.
Projects include fixing taxiways, improving airfield lighting, repaving runways and replacing transceiver radios.
Estimates by Coffman Associates indicate the number of planes and helicopters based in Chandler will increase by about 200 over the next couple decades and the airport’s annual flight operations will rise by about 54,000.
Residents living around the airport have been voicing concerns about the noise that more flight traffic will generate in the near future, but Eric Pfeifer, one of Coffman’s consultants, said noise levels may not change dramatically.
The Chandler Airport is intended to cater to the small business jets, Pfeifer said, and this type of aircraft is currently being manufactured with quieter engines.
“As these newer business jets are entering the fleet,” he said, “it’s not having such a huge impact on the noise footprint at airports.”
One of the most expensive projects recommended in the master plan is a $9-million rehabilitation and extension of one of the airport’s runways.
Pfeifer said extending the runway by 680 feet is necessary to improve flight circulation and alleviate growing congestion.
Although the Federal Aviation Administration could potentially cover most of the costs associated with the runway project, Chandler would still have to go through several bureaucratic steps before the project could commence.
Assistant City Manager Joshua Wright said listing the runway extension in the master plan does not automatically ensure it will ever be completed.
“That is certainly not the case,” he said. “There is still much work to be done even if the master plan shows this project.”
Chandler’s city code requires runway extensions to be funded through a bond that has to be approved by voters. The city failed to get such a bond passed in 2000 and again in 2007.
Another costly project on the master plan is the construction of a new 16,000-square-foot terminal building for $8 million.
Pfeifer expects this new building would efficiently place some of the airport’s existing services under the same roof.
“We’re proposing a new terminal facility that takes advantage of an existing parking lot and consolidating some of the business activities and airport offices into one facility,” he said.
According to the master plan, aviation terminal buildings generally can’t be paid for with grants from federal or state governments and might have to be constructed through some sort of public-private partnership.
Planners believe private developers could potentially cover up to $42 million of the infrastructure projects listed in the new master plan – most of which include utility work on land that could be developed for additional airplane hangars.
“Because of economic realities, many airports rely on private developers to construct new hangars,” the master plan states. “In some cases, private developers can keep construction costs lower which, in turn, lowers the monthly lease rates necessary to amortize a loan.”
The plan places a timeline on when its 45 recommended projects should be done. The majority should be started before 2030. Twelve of the projects – which have a total cost of $22 million – are encouraged to be completed by 2025.
But the plan’s recommendations are meant to be flexible and adaptable to changes in the local economy.
“It is not unusual for certain projects to be delayed or advanced based on changing conditions, such as funding availability or changes in the aviation industry,” the plan states.
Pfeifer said the plan intentionally prioritized projects located along the airport’s north side because any south side projects would require additional development.
“There would be quite a bit of utility infrastructure that would need to be built in,” he said.
Despite the extensive number of recommended improvements, city officials say the airport is not planning to encroach upon its neighboring properties.
“The airport is not looking to expand the facility,” said Airport Administrator Chris Andres. “All the improvements that are depicted on the master plan are going to be contained within existing airport property.”
All the recommended improvements would be a worthy investment, he added, because the airport’s an “economic engine” and an asset to the Chandler community.
A 2016 economic analysis concluded the Chandler Airport helped to generate up to $32 million in revenue and employ more than 160 people.
“That business activity also generates tax dollars that fund several city services – ranging from police, to parks, to community centers,” Andres said.
Once completed, the updated master plan will be reviewed by the Chandler City Council and be used as a roadmap for future development at the airport.

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