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New Airport

August 09, 1992

The controversy over Lindbergh Field has raged for years. Along the way, The Los Angeles Times, San Diego County Edition, has exposed the public to ideas and proposals by printing numerous reports, articles and letters.

A South Bay airport doesn't make sense. It is now obvious that our good neighbors to the south have no interest in a joint airport on the border. They already have one there. South Bay communities don't want it, and North County residents aren't keen on increasing their drive by another 30 minutes each way. Then there is Otay Mountain, which is over 3,500 feet and much more foreboding than the parking structures at the foot of Lindbergh's runway.

Other proposed options don't look great, either. Military facilities are being consolidated, but Miramar Naval Air Station is active and heavily used. For many reasons others have cited, the Navy shouldn't be asked to give it up. Lindbergh Field, notwithstanding the planned improvements, is not a candidate for expansion. That seems to leave no reasonable alternative, because an Imperial Valley airport by definition would not be San Diego, and a floating offshore platform is futuristic but unproven and probably unworkable.

There is another option however: North Island. It has a relatively low level of military usage and a lot going for it as a new airport site. An under-bay tunnel could connect North Island with downtown near the present entrance to Lindbergh at Harbor Island. Tunneling technology is well known, trained crews and equipment are available, and tunnels can be made earthquake-safe. A tunnel is much more aesthetic than the most beautiful bridge and will allow the existing traffic flow, parking availability and accommodations to remain undisturbed. A corner of Lindbergh Field dedicated to a freeway interchange (going directly to the airport) would speed arrivals-departures and alleviate surface street congestion.

Runways that provided for takeoffs over the ocean would end noise problems, and the Navy could retain control of a thin bayfront perimeter to support seagoing vessels. With the large expanse of Miramar so close, the Navy could easily integrate the minor activities of North Island with Miramar.

Without question there are pros and cons with any site, but with the infrastructure already in place, and no radical change in the basic downtown location, there could be fewer problems with this alternative than others.

E. MARK JAHN, Jamul

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