SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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THE PROPOSED THIRD RUNWAY AT SEATTLE-TACOMA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
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TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS
MARCH 18, 1996
DES MOINES, WA
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
SUSAN MOLINARI, New York
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
Y. TIM HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
BILL BAKER, California
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
PETER I. BLUTE, Massachusetts
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER T. BACHUS, Alabama
JERRY WELLER, Illinois
ZACH WAMP, Tennessee
TOM LATHAM, Iowa
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
ANDREA SEASTRAND, California
RANDY TATE, Washington
SUE KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBILL MARTINI, New Jersey
DAN FRISA, New York
TODD TIAHRT, Kansas
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
PETE GEREN, Texas
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
BUD CRAMER, Alabama
BARBARA-ROSE COLLINS, Michigan
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
BILL K. BREWSTER, Oklahoma
KAREN McCARTHY, Missouri
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
THOMAS C. SAWYER, Ohio
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AVIATION
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee, Chairman
JERRY WELLER, Illinois, Vice-Chairman
WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
Y. TIM HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
JAY KIM, California
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER T. BACHUS, Alabama
ANDREA SEASTRAND, California
RANDY TATE, Washington
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSUE KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
BILL MARTINI, New Jersey
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BUD CRAMER, Alabama
BARBARA-ROSE COLLINS, Michigan
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
PETE GEREN, Texas
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Drewel, Bob, County Executive, Snohomish County, and Chair, Puget Sound Regional Council, Transportation Policy Board
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Hockaday, Dr. Stephen, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, California Polytechnic State University
Lindsey, Gina Marie, Director, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Merlis, Edward A., Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Air Transport Association of America
Michaelis, Dr. Lynn O., Professional Economist, Weyerhaeuser Company
Parker, Kathy, Board Member, Regional Commission of Airport Affairs
Priest, Skip, Mayor, Federal Way, WA, on behalf of the Airport Communities Coalition
Rees, Jane, Co-Chair, Washington Alliance of Taxpayers and Travelers
Wallace, Robert, Managing Partner, Wallace Properties Group, and Chairman, Local Government Relations, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
PREPARED STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY A MEMBER OF CONGRESS
Tate, Hon. Randy, of Washington
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Hockaday, Dr. Stephen
Lindsey, Gina Marie
Merlis, Edward A
Michaelis, Dr. Lynn O
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Drewel, Bob, County Executive, Snohomish County, and Chair, Puget Sound Regional Council, Transportation Policy Board:
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMinutes, Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Board, October 27, 1994
A Resolution of the General Assembly of the Puget Sound Regional Council Amending the 1988 Interim Regional Airport System Plan for Long-Term Commercial Air Transportation Capacity Needs of the Region
Puget Sound Regional Council Flight Plan/RASP Decision Process
Parker, Kathy, Board Member, Regional Commission of Airport Affairs, letter to Rep. Duncan, March 13, 1996
Tate, Hon. Randy, a Representative in Congress from Washington, white paper on financing of the proposed third runway
ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
Letters for and against a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
THE PROPOSED THIRD RUNWAY AT SEA-TAC INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
MONDAY, MARCH 18, 1996
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Aviation,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
Des Moines, WA
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 8:30 a.m. at Des Moines Field House, Des Moines, Washington, the Honorable John J. Duncan, Jr., chairman, presiding.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. I want to call this hearing of the House Aviation Subcommittee to order, and I want first of all to thank everyone for coming today, especially the witnesses from whom we'll hear in a few minutes. It is a privilege for all of us to be here in your beautiful state, and I want to say that I'm very pleased that we have several members of Congress with us today, and I would like to introduce them at this time. First of all, I'm Chairman Duncan, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee.
We have, first, coming from my left, Mr. Jack Metcalf who is a member from your own state, and we're pleased to have him here with us today.
The ranking minority member is Mr. Bud Cramer on my left, and he is from Huntsville, Alabama.
The member to my immediate right is Mr. Bill Clinger who is from Pennsylvania, and he is the Chairman of the full Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
We have with us Mr. Tim Hutchinson, a member of the Committee, who is from Arkansas.
Mrs. Andrea Seastrand, who is a member from California.
And we were invited here and are being hosted by the man who so ably represents most of you in this room, Mr. Randy Tate.
The Aviation Subcommittee is one of the most active subcommittees in the Congress in Washington. We do not often hold field hearings. In fact, we held one a few months ago in Chicago, and then this is just our second field hearing for this year. Congressman Tate, who is a member of our Subcommittee, approached me several months ago, requesting that an Aviation field hearing be held regarding the proposed third runway at Sea-Tac. After hearing some of the basic facts regarding the proposed expansion, I agreed with Mr. Tate that a field hearing was needed.
In general, this Congress believes that local and state governments should be given the freedom to make decisions on their own. However, this Congress also believes that the U.S. taxpayers should feel confident that their taxes are being spent wisely. The Port of Seattle is requesting that the federal government pay 66 percent of the runway cost.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I might say that there are two steps in this process. One is the authorization and one is the appropriation. We are the authorizing committee. Before money is spent on anything, it has to be authorized, and very few things, especially in this day of tight budgets, there are very few projects for which money is appropriated, unless they are first authorized. And, so, that is the reason that we are trying to look into primarily the cost and the need for this third runway.
But rather than give a lengthy statement at this time, because of his concern and great interest in this subject, I have agreed to yield my time to your congressman, Mr. Tate. Randy?
Mr. TATE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I'd like to thank my fellow members and the Chairman for bringing the Committee out to Washington State, and I'd also like to thank all of those that have spent so much time organizing this meeting. I'd like to thank the City of Des Moines, I'd like to thank Ken Reed from the Airport Communities Coalition, the RCAA, CASE and WATT and every other member of the Puget Sound community that's taken the time to be with us today.
I would also like to recognize all the state and local officials who requested today to testify, but, unfortunately, time does not permit us to hear from them verbally. State Senator Mike Heavey, State Senator Ray Schow, Pierce County Executive Doug Sutherland, State Representative Julia Patterson, State Representative Tim Hickel, King County Council Member Chris Vance, State Representative Karen Keiser, State Representative Erik Poulsen, State Senator Adam Smith, and State Representative John Koster.
Today's hearing is critical. It is designed to focus the attention of Congress on how we should or should not be spending our scarce federal transportation dollars when investing in airport expansion projects.
The proposed third runway at Sea-Tac is the poster child for government waste. The infamous third runway is not needed, and I will tell you why. And even if it were needed, it's too costly. It does not pass common sense cost benefit analysis or a reasonable investment criteria analysis as well. It is the poster child of why people are disaffected with their government that has chosen to isolate itself from the Americans most impacted by federal actions.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Many people simply don't know the truth about the third runway. Let me show you my first chart. Does Sea-Tac suffer from flight delays day in and day out? The answer is no. Significant flight delays, those more than 15 minutes, have decreased over the last 6 years by 84 percent. In 1995, 4.77 flights per 1,000, less than one-half of 1 percent, were significantly delayed.
Does Sea-Tac suffer from bad weather 44 percent of the time? Again, no. It's only 9 percent of the time. Let me explain why. The Port of Seattle has concocted its own special definition of bad weather. Under the FAA rules, Sea-Tac has good weather a whopping 91 percent of the time. That leaves only 9 percent of the time with bad weather conditions when only a few selected planes and pilots are certified by the FAA to fly.
Does a new runway add significantly to runway capacity? No. The third runway would be a dependent parallel runway. There will not be simultaneous landings on two runways. The Port itself says in its Master Plan that the runway could only be used for 12 percent of the arrivals to the south, 3 percent of the arrivals to the north, and less than 4 percent of all departures.
How much will the runway cost? Well, that's a good question. It's the most expensive runway of its length in U.S. history. Some 8500-foot runways cost as little as $10 million. Not the Port's budget-busting billion-dollar runway. The Port estimates the cost of the runway itself just to be $500,000. But that does not take into account 2,000 dump trucks per day, 16 hours a day for 3 years, and it doesn't take into account the damage it will do to local roads when they bring seven Kingdome loads worth of dirt into a canyon where the runway is supposed to be built.
What about noise mitigation? Its costs have never been reasonably assessed for the third runway. But history tells us much here. The Port will spend $170 million when it finally finishes mitigating the surrounding communities for the second runway. That's less than 50 percent complete as we sit here today, and the second runway was built in 1973.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If people learn the facts and understand these facts, they do not support the third runway, especially if he or she will have to pay for it. I'd like to show you another chart.
So, who pays for the third runway if it's ever built? We all do. The Port will never be able to put this financial deal for this boondoggle together without you, the taxpayer, the homeowner, the small business owner, the worker, the air traveler. The Port uses passenger facility charges, which is a $3 head tax, every time you step on an airplane. The Port will raise landing and gate fees on airline companies, which in turn charge you more to get on the airplane. The Port will increase fees when you pay to park to pick up a loved one at the airport and require you to pay more for a cup of coffee or a roll of mints. To pay for the roads for the dump truck damage, you will pay state and federal gasoline taxes when you fill up your car. On top of that, you know that the Port already wants to take $300 million of the taxpayers' money to spend for the runway.
But the straw that breaks the camel's back, however, is what one of our esteemed witnesses will tell you later, the third runway would not have a chance to be built if it were not for the Port's ability to raise property taxes. They think they can raise your taxes in the middle of the night, without a vote of the people, and get away with it.
I'm here today for what I once thought was just a local problem, but, instead, it's a symptom of a larger national problem. I'm here as a congressman and a guardian of the American taxpayers to ensure that federal dollars are invested wisely and not thrown at billion-dollar boondoggles.
The Port of Seattle's billion-dollar boondoggle is similar to other projects at too many other airports. Let me explain why. The Airport Improvement Program is the primary federal statute for investment in our nation's aviation system. It is subject to back door deals that undermine the taxpayers' trust and waste scarce resources. The proposed runway at Sea-Tac is the poster child for back-door deals.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Port wants a letter of intent, or an LOI, for $267 million. LOIs are the federal government's guarantee to obligate Airport Improvement funds on an established schedule. They empower airport sponsors to issue bonds because LOIs give them a predictable stream of revenues year after year. Everyone knows that the LOI program has been mismanaged. You see, there are no defined investment criteria or sound cost benefit analysis procedures or rational performance measures. LOIs are nothing more than a financial guarantee to a multi-year aviation pork barrel project. We need action now.
The sponsors of the airport and the FAA use another back door deal, passenger facility charges. Sea-Tac's financial plan accounts for $1 billion of PFCs to fund its expansion program. PFCs are a head tax on just about every member of America's flying public. The FAA has never seen a PFC it doesn't like. The General Accounting Office reports that as of February 1995 the FAA has approved 216 out of 217 PFC tax applications that were submitted. Definitely, the fox is guarding the hen house.
National aviation system capacity and airport congestion are critical issues to the American people. We want to fly safely wherever we want. We can all agree on that point. But the proposed third runway at Sea-Tac is a solution in search of a problem. It is not justified and it costs way too much.
I was elected to limit the size of government, inject common sense and accountability, halt government waste and ensure the taxpayers' money is invested wisely. The Airport Improvement Program, letters of intent and Passenger Facility Charges are all, in their own way, symbols of the failed status quo. Yet, the FAA simply hasn't gotten the message. Operators of airports are like the adolescent boy who lives next door. He'll keep trampling your flowers in your front yard until you tell him to stop. Operators of the airport will continue to waste taxpayers' money until we tell them to stop.
I proudly stand with over 200,000 people from my district because Sea-Tac's proposed third runway is too much like another Washington boondoggle a couple of decades ago. The political and business leaders of our region stood shoulder to shoulder behind a proposal to go deeply into debt to build a massive public works project called WPPSS. Like the third runway proposal, it was based on shaky projections about burgeoning demand. The public was told if it wasn't build, then our region's economy would fall apart. Billions of dollars later, burdened by massive cuts and cost overruns, discredited horribly by inaccurate demand projections, and overextended in public debt, WPPSS collapsed. When it went bankrupt, it took our region's good bond rating with it, the retirement savings of thousands of citizens, and the confidence of our people in our local governments. Mr. Chairman, my colleagues, not again. Please, not again. I yield back my time.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Tate follows:]
Mr. DUNCAN. Let me apologize, ladies and gentlemen, but we need to hold down the expressions one way or the other because we're all facing pretty tight time constraints here so that we have as much opportunity to hear from the witnesses as possible. I'd like to go, at this time, to the ranking member, Mr. Cramer.
Mr. CRAMER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's certainly nice to be here in the state of Washington to consider an issue that obviously is very emotional and taken very seriously by most of those here today.
I want to tell you that our Subcommittee and our full Committee I know takes our job very seriously, and we're here today to gather information and to listen and to be open, frankly, to both sides over this issue here today. I personally want to hear what's the alternative, if we don't do this. I mean, how did we get where we are, what are the real issues that we face here today and, then, what are our alternatives? I think we need to do that with a clear head, and I know that's why you and the rest of us came out here.
And also I'm glad, Mr. Chairman, that you and a couple of others of us are from the South because we talk a little slower, so we will need a little extra time here today, so we'll need to be careful as we move on through this. But thank you for your leadership, and I'm just glad I was able to come this long distance to be here over this issue.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Cramer. We're honored to have another member from your fine state with us, Mr. Jack Metcalf.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members of the Aviation Subcommittee, I want to thank you for allowing me to be here to comment on this local issue of national and international significance, the proposed modernization of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and our federal government's investment in our air transportation system.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This issue reminds me of a young congressmanunfortunately, I'm a little older than he waswho was sent by his constituents to Washington, D.C. nearly 150 years ago. He brought with him a vision grounded on principles in which he passionately believed a system of transportation, roads and railways, canals and waterways, that the federal government would foster so the country's economy would become one vast, interdependent web. Economically, it embraced growth, development and progress. To him, it embodied the very promise of American life. This young congressman was Abraham Lincoln. The 19th Century statesman would have looked at this 20th Century issue and not hesitated to tell you that you must build for the 21st Century, for our future.
In slightly more than 100 years the Pacific Northwest has grown from an economy dependent on trees and fish. That's what it was 100 years ago. It now makes the world's best jet aircraft and it is creating the computer information technology that's driving the most profound change in the world's economy since the Industrial Revolution.
Yet, history has taught us that we in the Pacific Northwest can never take our local economy's health for granted. My colleagues, that brings me to what I want to share with you today. There are others on this panel who will outline in detail the practical reasons for moving now to expand Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I want to speak to the broad regional consensus that exists for upgrading Sea-Tac.
Virtually everyone, even those here opposing Sea-Tac's expansion, agrees that the airport is a linchpin of the Pacific Northwest's economic future. When Puget Sound citizens first started evaluating how Sea-Tac's productive life could be extended 7 years ago, the top priority was engaging the public. It wasn't hard. This is an issue that has focused citizens' attention, not only here, but throughout King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties where 2.2 million people live.
When it comes to expanding a major facility like an airport, state law very specifically requires a bottom-up political process. As you may know, the state of Washington is famous for its public process, which can literally stretch out for years. This one involved the public, city and county elected officials from four counties. They have commissioned seven studies of air capacity options since 1989 at a cost of $7 million. Each one of them required public meetings, public hearings, public testimony, and the opportunity for the public to submit written comments. A few of these meetings got pretty testy.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to have you be able to visualize the volumes of data, the studies, the public comment that have been introduced which undeniably shows the public's voice has been heard on this issue. We had an idea to bring them all in in a great big wheelbarrow, all the public testimony, but we'll pass on that.
When it came time for elected officials to look at airport expansion options, the issue went before the Puget Sound Regional Council. You will hear from its leaders later, but it represents more than 400 city and county members from little Skykomish, population 65, to King County, population 1.5 million. After they were presented with the facts, more than 88 percent of the cities and counties voting agreed that modernizing Sea-Tac was the most cost effective, environmentally sound and economically progressive option.
That issue was fiercely debated in recent elections. And again, citizens showed their support for expanding Sea-Tac. Last month, airport opponents mounted a taxpayer financed $100,000 radio campaign featuring anti-runway attack ads. Yet out of 5,300 precinct caucus gatherings in King County in early March, fewer than 100 passed anti-runway resolutions. That's well under 2 percent. If you factor in Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, it's much lower.
Down to the bottom line. We have an established process whereby local government studies, takes public testimony, and reaches a conclusion. Local government has complied with this. They've gone through the process. And finally, you have to get to closure. They have decided, the local governments empowered by the state to do this, has decided that this is what we should do. We should build the third runway. And I'll tell you the last thing you want is for the federal government to come in and overrule or tell local government how to run their business. With just one exception, our state's congressional delegation, Republic and Democrat, conservative and liberal, supports the expansion of the Sea-Tac Airport. This is an issue that has impressive bipartisan support. Everybody in the delegation knows that the Puget Sound region will grow in the next two decades, both in terms of population and airport operations.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Early in my testimony I told you that the expansion of Sea-Tac is a local issue with national and international dimensions. I'd like to have you think about Vancouver, B.C., a beautiful city, a tough economic competitor, ready to capitalize on its new status as a safe harbor for Pacific Rim money and investments. Business and financial interests there have already moved to expand Vancouver's international airport, preparing for the growth in Western Canada that they know is coming. They believe Canada one day may be the most active area north of the San Francisco Bay Area. If that is so, then we must be prepared to compete. It reinforces the wisdom of investments in projects like the expansion of Sea-Tac Airport. In a very brief time, the Pacific Northwest and its dynamic business and industriesThe Boeing Company, Microsofthave literally been reshaping the world's economy. But anybody who lived through the late 1960's knows how fragile that can be. Remember the famous billboard we had, ''Will the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights''? Now is no time to allow our region's infrastructure to deteriorate, something that would only be of advantage to our economic rivals.
I started my testimony by invoking Abraham Lincoln and I will end it the same way. Like Lincoln, I believe the best decisions are made closest to home. For 7 years now, the Puget Sound region has focused on how to best meet our need for more air capacity. After millions of dollars in studies and thousands of hours spent in meetings and deliberations, we have concluded that expanding Sea-Tac is the most practical option. This is an honest project that has had an honest process. I think Lincoln would have been proud.
I have testimony from other people that could not get on the panel, and I would like to submit that for the record. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Metcalf.
Let me call at this time on Chairman Clinger, the chairman of the full Government Reform and Oversight Committee who has been spending most of his time this year in hearings on Travelgate and Whitewater and things of that nature. But, Mr. Clinger, you may make any statement you wish at this time.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLINGER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. This is not as controversial, perhaps, as some of the hearings that I've been attending this year, but, obviously, this is a hearing that has great importance for the people in this room and throughout this entire region. I don't have an opening statement but I just thank you for bringing the committee to Seattle, to the Sea-Tac area, and Randy for being our host here today. Obviously, we have a concern as the authorizing committee for aviation and for the Aviation Trust Fund to husband those resources carefully, make sure that they are not wasted or dissipated in inappropriate ways because we all know that those resources are limited and, in fact, they have been diminishing over recent years. We've seen a cutback in the amount of funds available for airport improvements. So, I think we have to be very, very scrupulous. I think we all come with an open mind and look forward to hearing the testimony.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Chairman, let me just thank you for calling this hearing on the proposed third runway.
I think this hearing is very needed because of the magnitude of the project, because of the issues that are raised, because of the history that we have in this country on some airport projects, at least, having enormous cost overruns, and the infrastructure for which our Committee and our Subcommittee are really committed in this country. The infrastructure also has been an invitation for a lot of boondoggles. So, the magnitude of the project when you look at the 17 million cubic yards of fill dirt required, the price tag which, I think as Randy said, would be one of the costliest for this size of improvement in the country, the environmental issues that are raised, from wetlands to noise abatement, there is a lot, I think, to be asked and a lot of questions to be answered.
It is, I think, to Congressman Tate's credit that he has encouraged our Chairman to call this hearing in advance so that these kinds of questions can get that appropriate answer now, and we can look at the feasibility, whether or not the plan is fatally flawed or not at this point, rather than later. So, Mr. Chairman, I compliment you and I thank you for calling the hearing.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson. Ms. Seastrand?
Ms. SEASTRAND. Well, being a woman of few words, I just want to say thank you to Mr. Tate for inviting us here today, and I'm anxious to hear what the people have to say today, being a believer in local control, government closest to the people, making decisions at the local government, and I'm anxious to hear and get on with the hearings.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much. We've now been joined by another outstanding member of your state delegation, and I would like to call on Congressman Rick White at this time.
Mr. WHITE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to start off first by welcoming all of you to our fair part of the country. It's a pleasure to have you here, Chairman Clinger and Chairman Duncan, it's a pleasure to have Congressman Hutchinson with us and also our fellow freshman, Andrea Seastrand. I see Randy Tate down there too. We see Randy a lot. But it's a pleasure to have the rest of you here, we really welcome you here, and hopefully you will at least take a few minutes to appreciate our part of the country. We're very proud of it and we're just delighted to welcome you here.
With respect to the airport, I want to make it clear and I don't think I probably have to explain this too much, but I'm not the expert on all the details for that. You're not going to hear great expertise from me. You will hear expertise from a number of the witnesses that you have before you today. So, I don't think I can offer you too much, except two or three personal observations about what I do know about the airport and what my sense of this issue is before us today.
Number one, I spend a lot of time in this airport, so, to that extent, I guess I am a bit of an expert, and I can tell you that it's a very busy airport that works pretty well. And I think that it's essential that we keep this airport working well because it's a very important part of our community. We're expecting a lot of growth and we've had a lot of growth in recent years. We have a big trading function here in our part of the country, and so it's very important for this airport to work well, and my own view is that the third runway is necessary for that purpose.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'll say a word or two about the cost. It's going to be expensive to build this runway, but I would have to say that the cost of building a third runway will be dwarfed by the idea of building another airport in our area. So, I think we need to keep that in mind when we consider what we're trying to do here.
And finally, I guess I would say that we have to recognize that nobody wants an airport in their backyard. I mean, I don't want an airport in my backyard and I know most of the good people in this area would just as soon have the least air traffic they can possibly have in this area. Unfortunately, we do have to have one someplace, and I can tell you that we'll probably hear strong views from people in this area today about the trials and tribulations of living with an airport. If we move this hearing a few miles north to my district or Jack Metcalf's district or probably to any district in the United States, we hear the same sorts of complaints. I think we just have to recognize that there are very few places where people will welcome having this so close to their homes. We do have to have it someplace, however, and I think our goal should be to make the airports that we have as efficient as possible so that we can have as few of them as possible.
As I say, I'm not the expert. My own view is that the third runway makes sense and it should be built at Sea-Tac, but I'll leave that to the committee and to the process that you have underway to make the decision, and I thank you for taking the time to be here and coming to visit us, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Rick, thank you very much for being here today.
Let me start off with two apologies, in addition to what I've already said. We had a great many witnesses who wanted to testify today, but we just weren't able to accommodate all of the witnesses, and we will accept written testimony from anyone who wishes to submit that testimony. We already have received a very large number of those statements. But we tried to come up with three panels that I think will present both sides of this issue. The Subcommittee recognizes that there is much disagreement about this and that it is an emotional issue to many people involved.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, because all of us are working under a time constraint and we have to conclude this hearing by about a quarter till 12:00 so that most of us can catch an airplane, we're going to limit the statements of all the witnesses to a strict five minutes. I think I read one time that the Gettysburg Address was given in three minutes and 40 seconds, and so five minutes for each witness, they're going to be cut off in mid-sentence if they don't finish in five minutes, and what's fair for one will be fair for the other, so, we'll ask that everyone stick strictly to this five minutes. Usually in our Congressional hearings we have the statements and then we begin questions. Also, in an attempt to be as fair as possible, we're going to do this a little differently. We're going to hear from each panel with their five-minute statements. And then at that time we're going to look at the clock and see how much time is left under our deadline and we're going to divide that by three and we'll limit the questioning then to each panel based on the amount of time that is left, giving each panel the same amount of time to respond to questions.
So, our first panel, and we appreciate all of you being here, the first panel consists of Skip Priest, who is the mayor of Federal Way and is affiliated with the Airport Communities Coalition. We have also Dr. Stephen Hockaday, who is with Consulting Services, Ltd., and Dr. Lynn Michaelis who is an economic growth planning expert. And, gentlemen, it's an honor to have each of you here, and I suppose we'll start with Mayor Priest, Dr. Hockaday and Dr. Michaelis, in that order. Mayor Priest, you may begin your statement.
TESTIMONY OF SKIP PRIEST, MAYOR, FEDERAL WAY, WA, ON BEHALF OF THE AIRPORT COMMUNITIES COALITION; DR. STEPHEN HOCKADAY, PROFESSOR, CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING, CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC STATE UNIVERSITY; AND DR. LYNN O. MICHAELIS, PROFESSIONAL ECONOMIST, WEYERHAEUSER COMPANY
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PRIEST. My name is Skip Priest, the mayor of Federal Way. Today I am testifying on behalf of the Airport Communities Coalition. The Coalition is made up of five cities and the Highline School District representing more than 200,000 residents. We are extremely appreciative, Chairman Duncan, that you and your Committee have taken the time to review this extremely critical issue. As a former House and Senate staffer in Washington, D.C., I know how busy your respective schedules are and that field hearings are often logistical nightmares. We, of course, also would like to thank Congressman Tate for his leadership on this issue and his efforts to ensure that it gets a fair and objective review.
Today's citizens groups will describe graphically the horrendous impacts on property values and quality of life that this proposal will bring about. Some say these are NIMBY arguments, and so they are. But I would remind all of us elected officials making decisions impacting this project that one of the most fundamental precepts of our democracy is that we are requiredno, we are in fact mandatedto balance the rights of the minority against the greater good. And the Port, driven by self interest, has failed to provide any measurable benefit to our region to justify these catastrophic impacts. This is a condemnation of our property rights and quality of life and, for what it's worth, it is a condemnation without compensation.
Frankly, I might be more hesitant to come before you if these were the only arguments against this ill-advised scheme by the Port of Seattle. But, let's face facts. This plan is going to cost all of us a whole lot of money for very little benefit.
This proposal is WPPSS reincarnated. You've probably heard of WPPSS. That was the last great plan by a bunch of bureaucrats in this region with no business experience and a cloudy crystal ball. This is not a project for the faint of heart. In a prior life, I was Vice President of Development for one of the largest land management companies in the country. When we had an extremely difficult project, like this one, we put our financial toe in the water very slowly. This allowed us to change directions, to cut our losses if things didn't work out the way we planned. But that's not possible with this proposed runway.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The hard costs of $500 million are ten times the cost of proposed runways in Baltimore, Charlotte and Louisville. And, as a result of this huge up-front cost, they now drive a proposed $3.3 billion Master Plan, a plan that will drain our region's resources and place a huge mortgage on our financial future. And for what benefit? Well, not to the region's economy, at least according to the Final EIS prepared by the Port, and delays have been reduced over the last 5 years by 84 percent. According to the FAA, today, Sea-Tac has one of the best on-time records in the country.
Finally, I'd like to address the financial feasibility of this $3.3 billion expansion plan because the only way that the runway can be justified is if the total expansion plan can be justified, and it can't. In more than 25 years of financial analysis, this is the scariest proforma I've ever seen. In the business world, even when you buy a hammer, you do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether the expense is justified. Not in the Never-Never Land of the Port of Seattle. You see, the Port tells us that the $3.3 billion expansion plan isn't going to cost us anything, even though ticket prices will increase, even though airport services, like parking lots and the cost of hotdogs, will increase, even though the Port is going to the public trough for $300 million of federal and state funds, and even though the plan doesn't even factor in public dollars to build multi-million dollar projects such as the South Access for the 509 expansion, and it isn't going to cost us anything. And that's blatant nonsense. Given the high percentage of local travelers using this airport, this means disposable dollars will be taken out of all our pockets, from our savings, from local businesses, and from other worthy public projects.
This is an issue of choices. What we have here is a financial house of cards built on increased landing fees that the airlines may not be able to pay, increased passenger facility charges based on increased enplanements which may not occur, grant monies which would and should not be available, and operating profits which may not be achievable. And the plan concludes that the financial scenario is ambitious with no fatal flaws. Translation: we're on the Titanic, but we don't see any icebergs yet.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let's be absolutely honest with ourselves. The only thing that will ultimately bail out this turkey is King County taxpayer dollars, and most likely, without our votes.
So, what are we left with? We are left with the very real possibility that we are creating WPPSS II. At no cost? Tell that to my mother, who lost part of her retirement savings to worthless bonds, or the businesses today that are paying higher energy costs as the BPA struggles to survive, or, in fact, to the Northwest legislators, many who are sitting right here at this dias, who battle every session to mitigate the impact of the bureaucrats' last great misjudgment.
Today we have the opportunity to start pulling the plug, Mr. Chairman, on this billion-dollar boondoggle before it becomes another WPPSS. And with your help, Mr. Chairman, we will.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mayor Priest.
Dr. HOCKADAY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm a professor of civil and environmental engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. I received my Ph.D. in air transportation from the University of California at Berkeley, with a dissertation on the separation of landing aircraft in instrument weather conditions. I've been active in airport planning and air traffic control for 25 years, and I'm a registered professional engineer.
I believe that a third air carrier runway at Sea-Tac is not a sensible part of the solution to the Puget Sound's airport capacity needs because the runway fails to meet the stated purpose which is to increase runway capacity in poor weather conditions. This failure occurs for three main reasons. First, poor weather occurs for much less of the time than the Port suggests. Secondly, the cost to the airlines of improving Sea-Tac will drive some of the traffic to Paine Field. Thirdly, air space interactions will divert traffic from Boeing Field to Sea-Tac. I'll now detail these three reasons.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The first reason is that poor weather occurs for much less of the time than the Port suggests. The Port states that the poor weather occurs 44 percent of the year. This figure is incorrect and misleading because the correct value is in the order of 3 percent to 10 percent. Five points demonstrate this problem.
First, the Port used weather data from 11 winters and 10 summers, thereby overestimating the occurrence of poor weather. Second, weather in the hours of the day when a significant number of arrivals land, between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., is better than the weather in the rest of the day. Third, weather in the peak months of the year, May, June, July and August, is better than the weather in the rest of the year. Fourth, the Port incorrectly defines poor weather to occur at 5,000-foot ceiling and 5 miles visibility. This definition is inconsistent with the FAA definition of IFR weather, it does not recognize visual approaches being made by some aircraft today when the weather is at least 2500 and 3, and does not recognize other types of approaches that could be made under today's rules with ceiling and visibility below 2500 and 3. And, fifth, a Localized Directional Air, LDA, approach has been used at other airports for several years. Use of an LDA approach permits arrival streams to two runways at lower ceiling and visibility conditions. At St. Louis, for example, the weather minimums required for such approaches have been set at 1200 foot ceiling and 4 miles visibility. Using an LDA approach at Sea-Tac will reduce the amount of time with a single arrival stream from 44 percent to approximately 10 percent of the year and approximately 4 percent during peak periods.
The second reason is that Sea-Tac development costs will drive some airline traffic to Paine Field. The combination of the most expensive runway ever, without the development costs, will add up to almost $2 billion. This cost will result in significant increases in airline rates and charges. When airline charges go up, some airlines will move their operations to a lower-cost airport in the region. In Colorado the higher charges associated with the opening of the new Denver International Airport encourage Western Pacific to compete with United with lower fairs from Colorado Springs, some 50 to 60 miles away. In the Puget Sound region, higher charges at Sea-Tac will encourage airlines to serve other regional airports, such as Paine Field.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The third reason is that airspace interactions will divert traffic from Boeing Field to Sea-Tac. According to an FAA 1993 report, there are significant airspace conflicts between the third runway and Boeing Field which will reduce air traffic activity at Boeing Field. Sea-Tac traffic would normally have priority over Boeing Field traffic. The resulting reduction in the capacity of Boeing Field would cause general aviation aircraft to divert from Boeing Field to Sea-Tac and other regional airports, thereby increasing Sea-Tac delays and reducing the reliever airport role of Boeing Field. So, you can see that some unintended effects may occur.
My conclusions are that the third runway is not justified because there is much less poor weather than stated by the Port, because it would cause diversion of airline traffic to Paine Field and other regional airports, and because airspace conflicts would reduce Boeing Field's capacity and its reliever airport role.
The third runway also has several operational problems which reduce its effectiveness and may cause safety problems. For example, the need to taxi across two active runways to use the third runway is poor airport planning practice and may lead to unsafe runway incursions.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Dr. MICHAELIS. Thank you very much for inviting me and giving me the privilege to speak to this Congressional group. This is obviously an important issue to the Puget Sound, but particularly important to the thousands of people that bear the implicit tax of airport operations.
I'm a professional economist with a large local corporation. However, the views I'm expressing are those of my own and not of that corporation.
I want to make clear that my professional experience bears very clearly on the topic at hand. For 23 years I have been actively involved in estimating demand and prices that are used by my corporation in making capital decisions on very large capital projects that range from $600 million to $1 billion. I've also been very active with the Seattle-King County Economic Development Group and in the 1980's I led a study that helped the Group think about what factors did we have to improve in terms of legal and infrastructure improvements to help the Seattle-King County area grow. So, I'm aware that airports are important, but they are a subset of a variety of factors that are important to the growth of the community.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Given the limited time, I will focus on two issues. First, is there a capacity crisis at Sea-Tac Airport without the third runway? I will answer no. It's really a pricing issue, and I will make that clear. As a result of low prices, they're creating excess demand. Two, the third runway serves local interests. As the Congressman spoke earlier, there is no national interest here. If there is an airport required, then local communities should pay for it or the airlines should pay for the expansion and it should not be subsidized through federal money. And again, I will expand on that as I go through my points.
Issue number one, the pricing scheme used at the airport does not allocate scarcity. In fact, all of the discussion avoids the discussion of price. All we talk about are operations. In the private market, when there is a shortage, prices run up rapidly. For instance, a few years ago there was a lumber shortage. Lumber prices went up 70 percent and, of course, the market then operated to correct the problem. Demand was reduced and capacity was expanded.
Sea-Tac pricing is based on tonnage. It's not on passengers, it's not on time of day. In fact, an operation with 10 passengers counts the same as an operation with 400 passengers. An operation at 1:00 in the morning counts the same as an operation at 5:00 at night. The price is simply too low. And the clear indication of that is the commuter operations which take up 37 percent of the operations. It's important to note commuters take up 37 percent of the operations and account for only 7 percent of the passengers.
As shown in my paper, if you use private investment analysis, even on the $500 million, the third runway would generate less than a 1 percent return if you think about the money that's generated by commuter operations. I think you would agree a 1 percent return is a lousy return on our money from both a public or a private point of view. We are diverting America's scarce capital to fund what would be a very low return project. And, by the way, that does not include the full social costs that are involved in this airport.
The reality is we do not have a shortage, but a pricing problem. Just like when WPPSS and the BPA said there was a huge energy shortage, they were using incredibly low energy prices to project their demand forecast. My belief is if you price it correctly, as was stated earlier, we would see that the demand would in fact contract significantly or the space would be allocated more efficiently to those operations that are crucial to the Puget Sound area, not just commuters with 10 passengers.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Issue number two, should federal money be used? Clearly, the answer is no. Sea-Tac serves the Seattle, Washington, area. If that's what we need, we should pay for it. The Port hopes to win the political battle by promising benefits to all the surrounding communities at no cost to them, and, in fact, most of the cost will be borne by the surrounding communities, not by the broadly dispersed communities. In fact, this is the very heart of our federal budget crisis problem. We continue to use federal money to help affluent local communities, and, with all due respect, Seattle is no longer a frontier village that needs national support for projects. If we want to build it, we have the money to do it. And it seems to me that if there is national interest here, it should be more clearly stated than in a broad public statement. So, let the market work. Let the market test work. If people want to fly in and out of Seattle, let the ticket prices reflect that in fact they want additional capacity here and let the price of takeoffs and landings rise high enough until a third runway can stand on its own as a capital project, just like other private enterprise projects. If the community needs it to prosper, then we need to find the money to support it.
This community has enough money to build a baseball stadium, and I think, therefore, we could generate the funding to build an airport if we needed it.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. I'll now call up Panel Number Two and ask that you gentlemen step back, please, and we'll get to you later with some questions. Panel Number Two consists of Gina Marie Lindsey who is the Director of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Robert Wallace who is the managing partner of Wallace Properties Group and Chairman of the Local Government Relations for the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Ed Merlis who is the Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Airports of the Air Transport Association. Ms. Lindsey, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Merlis, we thank you very much for being with us today. And, Ms. Lindsey, we'll start with you, please.
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TESTIMONY OF GINA MARIE LINDSEY, DIRECTOR, SEATTLE-TACOMA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT; ROBERT WALLACE, MANAGING PARTNER, WALLACE PROPERTIES GROUP AND CHAIRMAN, LOCAL GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, GREATER SEATTLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE; AND EDWARD A. MERLIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
Ms. LINDSEY. Good morning. I am Gina Marie Lindsey, Director of Aviation for the Port of Seattle.
I'd like to address three areas this morning: first, the specific operational needs the third runway would fulfill; second, why it's the most cost-effective solution; and third, how the potential environmental impacts are being addressed.
More than seven studies of the Puget Sound region's long-term air travel needs have examined numerous alternatives, including replacement or supplemental airports, high-speed rail, new navigational technologies, and techniques for managing airport demand. All have concluded that a third runway is the most viable, least expensive, and most environmentally sound option.
Unlike most airports where inclement weather comes and goes, Seattle's cloudy skies remain for days and weeks at a time. During clear weather the airport's narrowly spaced parallel runways can land up to 60 aircraft per hour. About 44 percent of the year reduced visibility or low cloud ceilings limit the airport to one runway for landings. Only half as many aircraft can arrive each hour. Passengers and freight don't wait for good weather. So, much of the time, Sea-Tac has too many airplanes for too little runway space.
The impact on aircraft delays is dramatic. Detailed analysis by the FAA shows that when the weather worsens from VFR to IFR, average arrival delays per aircraft increase more than 20-fold, from 1 minute to 21.7 minutes. Without additional capacity, delays will increase exponentially as traffic grows. IFR arrival delays are projected to increase to 70 minutes or more per aircraft by the year 2015.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Poor weather, however, is not keeping people from visiting or moving to the Seattle area. The Puget Sound population is growing at nearly twice the U.S. average. Even cities adjacent to the airport are experiencing rapid growth. For example, the city of Des Moines, host for this hearing, permitted a four-fold increase in multi-family dwelling units from 1970 through 1990. 1 million more people are anticipated in the region in the next 25 years.
Air passenger volumes in the Puget Sound region have increased faster than the national average over the last four decades and nearly three times as fast in the last 5 years. Sea-Tac now handles five times as many passengers and more than twice as many flights as it did 20 years ago with the same number of runways.
To get planes in and out efficiently during poor weather, the airport needs a second instrument approach. FAA analysis shows that a third runway would reduce the year 2015 IFR arrival delays from over 70 minutes per aircraft to 3.1 minutes per aircraft, a 95 percent reduction in delay time. Under today's traffic demand it would save about $60 million per year in aircraft operating costs, to say nothing of the business opportunity and time savings benefits that would accrue for passengers and shippers.
Short of a new runway, all feasible improvements to increased capacity already have been undertaken. Sea-Tac is a leader in implementing improvements to enhance poor weather operations. Airspace and operational improvements have been made. New navigational aids have been added. New high-speed exit taxiways have been constructed. Despite this, the airport is still limited to a single arrival stream during poor weather.
At $405 million to construct plus $50 million in mitigation costs, a third runway is the least expensive option. The bulk of the development cost is for the property acquisition and fill material. Alternatives, such as a new airport, would cost up to ten times as much. Other technologies have been studied by both the FAA and an independent expert panel of the Puget Sound Regional Council. All have been found to be inadequate.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Costs of the proposed runway have been misinterpreted by opponents who roll into the runway figure an additional $1.1 billion in airport improvements projected over the next 25 years. These projected improvements to terminals and ground access roads will be necessary with or without a new runway.
The bottom line for today's hearing is a runway cost of $405 million plus $50 million for construction mitigation. That's not cheap, but it's a bargain compared to any of the other options.
Sea-Tac has been a pioneer in airport noise reduction and has the nation's most comprehensive airport noise control program. The Puget Sound region needs $267 million from the Aviation Trust Fund over a 10-year period. That's about $25 million per year. The project is clearly the type of airport capacity enhancement for which the Aviation Trust Fund was designed. Sea-Tac passengers and shippers generate approximately $200 million per year in federal aviation taxes.
In closing, the third runway would solve an existing poor weather capacity problem and would serve the region's inevitable growing air traffic demand. It is the least expensive option. The potential environmental impacts have been examined and we can mitigate them. Numerous studies and extensive public review indicate that despite localized opposition, there is widespread regional support. It's time to move forward.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. WALLACE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was a product of elementary school in the south, so I'll speak a little bit more slowly and eliminate some of the statistics.
I'm representing the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce as Vice Chairman and also Air Washington, a coalition of business, labor and government and citizens who have been concerned about the air capacity issue at Sea-Tac for many years. We thank you for the opportunity to share a statewide business and labor perspective on this critical issue. Having spent my pro bono career on organizations and issues supportive of jobs and economic impact, I am convinced that there is no other issue of such significance for this region as the expansion of Sea-Tac Airport.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A little bit of history. More than a decade ago Seattle regional business and labor and citizen groups cited some very worrisome trends. We showed increased demand world wide for air transportation on a per capita basis, and here our population was growing exponentially. Our population by recent studies is indicated to increase from 1993 to the year 2005 by 18 percent, making us the sixth fastest growing region in the country. Employment at the same time will increase by 25 percent, making us the seventh fastest growing in the nation. At the same time, Sea-Tac is rapidly exhausting its capacity.
In 1991 business and labor formed Air Washington to support the expansion of Sea-Tac Airport. Business and labor don't always agree, but they're unanimous in their steadfast support for this very important addition of the all-weather runway at Sea-Tac. This is particularly important for Washington, perhaps more so than many other regions of the country. We're the only state in the nation with a positive trade surplus with Japan. We are our nation's leading exporter per capita. Boeing, our largest exporter in the nation, is based here, and our varied products are known and consumed throughout the world. As a result, we've opened some five new international routes just this past year. Each one is supposed to be worth approximately $150 million a year in economic activity. And we've expanded service to such areas as Beijing, Copenhagen, Shanghai, Taipei and London. It comes as no surprise, then, that one in five jobs in this region is directly linked to international trade, and all of them rely on a safe and efficient air transportation system and airport.
It's more than economics, but economics are important. We shipped some $28 billion through Sea-Tac last year, $7.1 billion of which was international trade. Sea-Tac is the number one airport in the world for sea-air cargo volume, and it's one of the main reasons why companies such as Intel located in Dupont, because of the proximity to Sea-Tac Airport, and that's why we've been able to retain, at least so far, important companies for our economy like Microsoft and 1600 other software companies who rely daily on efficient air transportation.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There aren't many options available. As Chairman of the Puget Sound Air Transportation Committee, we look carefully around the world for solutions. We could do like Vancouver where, despite environmental concerns, they bit the bullet and built a fully independent runway, an option that is virtually precluded here by topographical, political, environmental and economic obstacles. We could do like Denver and go out into the desert and build a brand new airport, but we simply can't afford the mega-billions of dollars or the decades of waiting, nor do we have any desert or even a self-respecting swamp within a two- or three-hour drive of major metropolitan areas. Like characteristic Seattle, we could do nothing. But in so doing, we'd threaten our economic well-being and the quality of life for some 4 million people in this region. Or, like virtually every other progressive community in the world, we could develop a regional transportation system, air transportation system, with Sea-Tac's second all-weather runway a very critical first step, and that's the solution that the Port has put forth and that's one that the greater regional business community and labor community support.
In conclusion, we believe this represents the only hope for mitigation of our capacity crisis within the next couple decades. We respect your concern and your care regarding the expenditure of funds from the Aviation Trust Fund, yet we believe that this is the very need for which these funds were set aside. Without question, the Sea-Tac expansion represents the most economical and environmentally sensitive solution for the air capacity crisis in our region, and we respectfully urge that you grant this appropriation.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Wallace.
And, Mr. Merlis, thank you for coming out to be with us this morning, and you may begin your testimony.
Mr. MERLIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. I'm Edward Merlis, Senior Vice President of the Air Transport Association of America. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to discuss the implications of a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you know, our airport system is based upon a closed-loop financing system in which virtually all commercial airports have been bought and paid for by the airlines, their customers and other users. Federal, state and local tax revenues did not and do not support our national system of airports. In addition to grants from the user-funded Aviation Trust Fund, airports are paid for by landing fees and by rental charges imposed on airlines and, since 1992, passenger facility charges, not general fund revenues.
Airports are at the heart of a region's economy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Pacific Northwest where Sea-Tac serves an integral role in our national transportation system and generates significant benefits for travel and tourism, manufacturing and service industries. Hundreds of thousands of jobs producing billions in income for the region have been ascribed to Sea-Tac.
However, airports do not operate in a vacuum. Airport construction and expansion has often been considered as a panacea for local economic woes, as though the mere existence of airport capacity will result in traffic and economic benefits will flow to the community. As a result, airlines have often found that they must leaven the natural inclination of local government to create jobs through airport public works projects. Our input into these seemingly local public works decisions simply reflects the results of our own cost benefit process, a process which any prudent business undertakes when evaluating the benefits to be derived from capital construction against the costs of undertaking such projects.
We believe that Sea-Tac is and will remain the principal airport for Washington state and the Puget Sound region for the foreseeable future. And, in our view, foreseeable future means at least 30 to 40 years. There is a huge investment in the huge facility, paid for by the airlines, which must be protected.
Suggestions that there should be a new, alternative or supplemental airport for the region are unrealistic, impractical and fiscally unsound. Even if the region wanted to finance such a wasteful public works project on the backs of local taxpayers, the likelihood that airlines would provide any level of service to such an airport is highly remote. There is no cost effectiveness in building an additional airport, especially when compared to improvements at Sea-Tac, which brings me to our views on the third runway.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ATA's member airlines continue to evaluate the expansion of Sea-Tac. At the moment, we do not have a consensus among our members concerning when to proceed with a third runway. The issue of timing is one of cost effectiveness and necessitates careful consideration of, among other things, the costs of the runway, the costs of delays, the extent of Trust Fund availability, the amount of additional capacity it will provide, and the traffic needs at the airport in the near future.
But make no mistake about our apparent indecision. If demand and traffic grow at Sea-Tac and construction becomes necessary and, most importantly, is fiscally prudent, the airlines will be among the first to step up to their responsibilities. The issue is not whether or not there needs to be expansion at Sea-Tac. The issue is when does expansion make the most economic sense for the community, for the airlines, for passengers and shippers and for our national system.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. All right, thank you very much, and we're moving right along here and we'll move now to Panel Number Three. The members of Panel Number Three are Kathy Parker who is a board member for the Regional Commission on Airport Affairs; Mr. Bob Drewel who is County Executive for Snohomish County and Chair of the Puget Sound Regional Council's Transportation Policy Board; and Ms. Jane Rees who is a member of the Washington Alliance of Taxpayers and Travelers. And we're please to have all three of you here and I guess, Ms. Rees, we'll start with you. You may begin your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF KATHY PARKER, BOARD MEMBER, REGIONAL COMMISSION OF AIRPORT AFFAIRS; BOB DREWEL, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, SNOHOMISH COUNTY, AND CHAIR, PUGET SOUND REGIONAL COUNCIL, TRANSPORTATION POLICY BOARD; AND JANE REES, CO-CHAIR, WASHINGTON ALLIANCE OF TAXPAYERS AND TRAVELERS
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Ms. REES. Thanks very much. I am Jane Rees. I live in the community of Magnolia, which is about 12 miles to the north. I'm on the faculty at the University of Washington in the Health Sciences, so, I'm not an expert on aviation, I am a citizen and I'm here to speak as a citizen. I work with Washington Association of Taxpayers and Travelers and other citizens groups that have formed spontaneouslyI would say pre grass rootsto deal with these issues as they have come to our attention.
WATT itself has a thousand individuals that have joined in a very few weeks, as well as seven organizations with thousands more. We did work on a resolution to be passed at the caucuses and it was mostly passed in those caucuses where it was presented. It was presented at very few because we're just getting involved because this plan is finally meeting the light of day. And we thank you for holding these hearings so that we can examine it.
I want to say that I've been outraged by the attacks on myself and others that we are not private citizens, and I think anyone who knows me would laugh at the idea that I could be manipulated in some way. I also resent that my monies are used in the PR campaigns of the Port for rolling over public citizens, like myself. And we've finally gotten a look at the plan for the financing of this project, and we are appalled. We see another WPPSS in the making, with citizens left to pay off the bonds of a failed project.
Now, the Port can't have it both ways. They tell us that they're not going to tax us, they're going to lower our taxes, while they're telling the bond underwriters that they can support these bonds on the taxes that they assess on us without our vote. And I'll say that as a community group and as citizens, we are going to be working on stopping this kind of ability that they have, which is exactly what the resolution came up about.
We do need a good transportation system. I, myself, travel a lot, I pay those taxes, but I know that this project will use up all our monies for the next long period of time without contributing much to the air transportation we already have.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to say to Mr. Metcalf that it seems to me that he's swallowed the PR message that this project has already been decided upon. I think that this is an intrusion on the process because it very definitely hasn't been given the go-ahead. And we also would like to tell him that the days where you can just accept any plan put before you by bureaucrats without a complete look at that plan and the cost benefits are over. In the spirit of boosterism, just saying that a plan is good, without looking at it, or that it's good for the region is over.
And I also want him to know this is a bipartisan issue and it is not a partisan issue. Citizens are going to be talking to all of their elected officials and we're going to hold them accountable. And I want him to know that in the King County Council, those members are already hearing what we have to say, and we don't expect that he would come down and tell us, as King County taxpayers, how to spend our money.
Yes, it is a local decision. It hasn't been totally made yet. The process is still open, and one of the problems with it is that it has not allowed, up to now, the chance for us to look at the finances and we have not voted. We have not had an opportunity to vote.
As for Mr. White, he's also out of county. He's telling us how to spend our taxes. We know that he was voted into Congress on the promise that he will be looking at all taxes and expenditures. And we are telling people now that we are going to be holding our elected officials accountable in all the entire region on a bipartisan basis.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Ms. Rees.
Mr. DREWEL. Yes, thank you, Chairman Duncan.
My name is Bob Drewel, County Executive of Snohomish County and chair of the Puget Sound Regional Council's Transportation Policy Board. I thank you for this opportunity.
The Puget Sound Regional Council is, under federal law, the metropolitan planning organization for King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties, an area that holds 56 percent of the population of the state of Washington. As the region's MPO under federal law, the Regional Council also has specific regional transportation and growth management responsibilities under our state Growth Management Act.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is in both of those roles, as well as under the Interlocal Agreement signed by the 58 cities, 4 counties, 3 ports and 2 state agencies that are members of the Council, that the Regional Council decided that, subject to some conditions that I'll mention later, a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the appropriate method of providing this region with essential air transportation capacity. That was not a decision we arrived at lightly.
From an economic standpoint, there is no question about this region's need for adequate air transportation capacity. The state of Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the country, and here on the Pacific Rim, much of that trade is dependent on air transportation, and Sea-Tac is the only major airport that we have.
Technical experts have related the details about air traffic here now and why, in their judgment, our capacity is unable or soon will be unable to keep up with the demand. The Council evaluated the information about capacity and concluded that we will need additional air transportation capacity by the year 2000, if not sooner.
The Council also adopts population forecasts for the region. Our forecast is that we will add another 1.1 million people here in the next 25 years, creating greater demand for air travel, in addition to the increased demand for freight and goods movement. But those are statistics and technical issues.
The economic health of this region is not technical, it's something we can all understand. And, as the Gateway to the Pacific Rim, we simply cannot afford to let our air transportation system become so crowded that we cannot compete.
So, the question is not whether we need to assure adequate air transportation capacity, but how. And on this, the region, through the Regional Council, has debated, deliberated and decided.
In the early 1990s the Puget Sound Air Transportation Committee, a 39-member group of citizens, local and state officials, and representatives of business, aviation and environmental interests, looked at the region's long-term air transportation capacity needs.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Regional Council produced the Final Draft Environmental Impact Statement on that study and, while it did not adopt a preferred alternative at that time, it brought forward a mix of potential solutions, including the third runway at Sea-Tac.
The Regional Council then conducted its own decision process with all major interests at the table as presenters of their viewpoints. These included groups in opposition to the third runway, the Airport Communities Coalition and the Regional Commission on Airport Affairs. We also had a number of open houses and other activities that took place in the public and then finally a decision by our General Assembly.
The final result: 88 percent of our General Assembly membership, composed of all local elected officials in the region representing all communities in the region, voted in favor of conditional approval of the third runway. The conditions related to demand management, system management, and noise.
Now, some would suggest that by making Sea-Tac Airport more efficient, we can meet demand for the foreseeable future with our existing flexibility. An independent panel of experts, appointed by former Congressman Sid Morrison and current Secretary of Transportation of the state, looked at this issue and concluded that we could not.
Some suggest we can meet the increasing demand for air travel by improving our rail connections. Again, the independent panel listened to testimony from all sides and concluded that we could not within a time frame that would have any impact on the need for a third runway.
Another condition involved looking throughout our region for a potential site for another major airport that could supplement Sea-Tac and possibly defer this need. There was a site selection process. 12 potential sites were reviewed and ultimately the Regional Council decided in the fall of 1994 that there was not a suitable site within the region for a supplemental airport. So, again, we reaffirmed our support for the third runway from a plan level.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Recognizing that airports are very noisy by their naturedid I buy any time? I'm finished. Okay.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, since you were interrupted, you can go for a few seconds more.
Mr. DREWEL. All right, fine, thank you.
The Council has also agreed to weigh its decision making criteria for allocating funds for transportation projects by way of mitigating, and the council has agreed to work with the state.
But let me conclude by saying there is no way of escaping that this region needs adequate air transportation capacity. We have exhausted all other avenues available to us within this region.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Drewel, and we'll go now to Ms. Parker.
Ms. PARKER. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, I'm a citizen, just an ordinary taxpaying citizen who can potentially have my taxes raised over this issue. So, I thank you for taking the time to gather the facts.
An Australian committee of senators recently completed their assessment of what went so wrong with the third new runway in Sidney. It, too, was 2300 acres. Upon completion they stated, ''The construction of the runway can be seen as an engineering triumph and as an environmental and social tragedy.'' As you read their summary, it becomes very clear that part of the reason this runway has failed is because the planners would not address real concerns. They did not look at the facts. The EIS was referred to as a sales document, as abounding in misrepresentation of evidence, omission of evidence and pseudo-objectivity through which adverse evidence was hidden. And, in my opinion, the selling of Sea-Tac has been handled the very same way. I, too, went through all of the processes Mr. Drewel referred to, and there was a fair bit of skulduggery involved in all of it.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sea-Tac is a tiny urban airport of only 2500 acres. It ranks 20th in the country in operations and, yet, can't make the top 100 in size. Homes and businesses have built right to the edge as our parents were once promised they'd never expand again. Rick Aramburu, a well respected land use attorney, used to warn the Port that ''Insufficient space is available for ground facilities.'' Keep in mind that you would be spending dollars on a dependent runway, a dependent runway separated by only 2500 feet. In a letter dated March 28, 1994, Neil F. Bennett, Regional Director of the Air Transport Association stated, ''This operation will increase capacity to a far less degree and certainly would not serve us well in our attempt to meet the future traffic management needs of Sea-Tac.'' This airport will be forever constricted and confined by its own acreage, by the topography and by an active, involved citizenry. Sea-Tac cannot significantly enhance system-wide capacity if the 70,000 people in the 65 LDN continually strive, and we will, for various caps and restrictions.
Then there is the dirt issue. 23 million cubic yards of dirt hauled from who knows where, not yet identified, 2 1/2 years, 6 days a week, 16 hours a day, all up and down our gridlocked interstate with double bucket trucks. We now rank fourth in the nation for gridlock, and this will only make it worse.
This project sacrifices our region's surface transportation system for an unproven need for additional air transportation. Most regions our size have interconnecting, mutually beneficial airport systems, while Sea-Tac tenaciously fights to keep 85 percent of the state's air traffic, regardless of the environmental, the social and the economic costs.
This would be the most expensive runway built in America, a runway the Port has even admitted is a short-term solution. That $1.5 billion doesn't begin to address the substantial sum of mitigation still owed from the building of the second runway. If a profitable private business objectively studiedobjectively studiedthe cost benefit analysis of this proposal, it would have been dropped long ago.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We ask you to gather the facts before committing any money to this project. Fifteen years ago there was a bunch of business people and politicians telling us that if we didn't support WPPSS and buy bonds and build five nuclear plants, that our homes and businesses would become dark and cold and Washington state would never grow. And, as you can see, our lights are still on, our heaters are working and we certainly didn't stop growing. But WPPSS just about bankrupted the hardworking citizens of this state. It was a wasteful project, and so is the third runway. Spending taxpayer dollars on Sea-Tac, in light of all of its limiting factorsit's a small airportis wasteful when so many other communities could legitimately use the funds.
I thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the fact that everyone has held their statements to such a short amount of time and has cooperated with us, and that now leaves us approximately two hours, or about 40 minutes per panel, for questions. And to keep from shifting around, I was going to go ahead and go to Panel Three first, but Mr. Tate has requested, because a member of Panel One has a time constraint, we will trade places once again and we'll go back to the first panel to begin our questioning. Gentlemen, I'll move around later on, but I'll start this first round of questioning.
Dr. Michaelis, you heard Mr. Merlis say that another airport would be a wasteful public works project and that even if built, no airlines would use it. I believe another witness said that a second airport would cost probably ten times the amount of this runway. What was your reaction to that testimony? Do you just feel that the Seattle area will never need another airport, or what do you have to say about that?
Dr. MICHAELIS. First of all, I'm not an expert, nor have I looked at all of the alternatives closely. However, in looking at some of the alternatives, there are other cities that have multiple airports that work very effectively. San Francisco has multiple airports, New York has multiple airports, Los Angeles has multiple airports. The fact is there are other airports in the regional area that could be expanded, such as Paine Field.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. That was going to be my next question. Are there other general aviation airports that could be used, say, for some of the smaller commuter traffic that you mentioned? What are the alternatives?
Dr. MICHAELIS. Certainly Boeing Field could be used more extensively, Paine Field could be used more extensively, there are even issues about Olympia being expanded. They've looked at all of the regional airports, and, obviously, they are opposed to further expansion of those regional airports. That has been one of the issues that the PSRC was addressing. Paine Field is a viable airport.
Mr. DUNCAN. For those of us who aren't from here, where is Paine Field?
Dr. MICHAELIS. Paine Field is located up north. It would serve Snohomish County. It's also very attractively located in terms of takeoff and landings. It's north of Everett.
Mr. DUNCAN. Dr. Hockaday, you know that for many years now people in favor of certain public works projects have always given a low-ball estimate and then the federal government has gotten into many, many projects and the costs have far exceeded the original estimates. Do you think that that would occur with this runway? Have you looked into that? Is the $405 million price tag on the third runway realistic, in your opinion?
Dr. HOCKADAY. I don't think it's a deliberate process. I'm putting an addition on my house, at the moment. I understand how that stuff escalates. I think the reality, if you look at the history of other airports around the country, is it's true, that typically the actual expenses often exceed by a significant amount the original estimates.
Mr. DUNCAN. But you haven't really looked into that on this particular project.
Dr. HOCKADAY. In this case, I haven't checked on other than the cost estimates for the runway. And those estimates seem reasonable.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Dr. Michaelis and Mayor Priest, do you also think the $405 million estimate is reasonable?
Mr. PRIEST. Mr. Chairman, one thing is very clear, and that is there is extremely limited mitigation dollars. Of the $50 million, some $35 million is primarily just purchasing some ground right underneath the runway. I hope it is understated because, if we can assume that the Port can spend absolutely no mitigation dollars whatsoever to improve the impact, as a result of this airport, I think that's a question that is going to be resolved after a long, hard struggle as far as the Airport Communities Coalition is concerned. So, I can say, at least in one area, which I would be comfortable in, that that very, very, very, very limited mitigation dollars is not even close to what we're going to be asking for for just the most minimum protection for the people who live in the area. I think if you look at the mitigation of the second runway, although it's still continuing, you will find that $50 million is fairly minimal versus what has already been spent.
Mr. DUNCAN. You know, being mayor is one of the toughest jobs in the country, and I know that you have trouble, I guess, getting unanimous support for almost any project. And I'm sure you heard County Executive Drewel testify that 88 percent of the local officials in this region voted in favor of this project. Do you think that that's an accurate reflection of the public sentiment in this area? Would 88 percent of the people in this region be in favor of this expansion?
Mr. PRIEST. Two comments about that. Number one is the fact that, as I indicated in my initial testimony, the protection of the rights of the minority are extremely important. That's what we're all about here in this country. And if there is no public benefit, the percentages are important whether they happen to be 15, 20, 25 or 30 percent.
We're very conservative in Federal Way, and I am the mayor. When we do a road, we make sure that when we condemn that it's for a darn good reason because we value property rights. I mean, that's what a lot of the colleagues, particular from Washington state here, believe very strongly with me that property rights are absolutely critical. And, so, from that standpoint, I have not focused on the 88 versus the 12.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second issue which I think is just as important is the fact that this whole cost is just coming to light of day. For 7 years there has been discussion without any cost, not only in terms of environmental impacts or really just dollars out of everyone's pockets. If you're talking about a $50 million roll of the dice in Louisville, for example, most people say, ''Well, that's fine. No big deal. We're willing to gamble that.''
But when you see, according to the Airport Master Plan now, which just came out in January, that we're talking about $3.3 billion out of this region's economy, which is clearly going to increase taxes, then I think, Mr. Chairman, there would not be so many people who would be so excited about that kind of a tradeoff. We're talking about real choices now, Mr. Chairman, and tradeoffs, and those choices and tradeoffs have not been discussed during the 7 years prior.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much. I certainly agree with you that property rights are very important. But my time has gone by very quickly. We'll go to Mr. Cramer.
Mr. CRAMER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would like to say, to begin with, to each of the three panel members, your testimony has been very valuable. You've been very conscientious in preparing for us today, and that's shown through your testimony.
Now, with this panel, just listening to the information that we've had provided to us, as well as the testimony presented here today, we've got an area that's growing quite rapidly here. In good weather Sea-Tac's capacity is 60 aircraft arrivals per hour. In bad weather this drops to 24 to 48 arrivals per hour. Your recent growth, the forecasted growth shows significant increases in Sea-Tac traffic. So, given that we're there, and since we've got to plan for the future, at what point do you think it would be prudent for Seattle to attempt to address the issue of delays at the airport, and what's the alternative? What should we do? That's for any panel member, by the way.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. HOCKADAY. I think the first thing to do is not to panic. We've seen that delays are going down, not up. There are other things that you can do without spending money at the airport which would reduce the delays further. Making the right decisions for airport planning for the future of a community is tough. And a variety of alternatives are still out there and available, notwithstanding the difficulties that have happened so far.
Mr. CRAMER. Such as what? What are the alternatives?
Dr. HOCKADAY. Use of existing airports, development of additional airports, using system management to make better use of the facilities that we have, and, to some extent, use of alternative modes of transportation. Those things have yet to be fully explored, and some potentially useful alternatives have not made it to the light of day.
Mr. CRAMER. Anyone else?
Mr. PRIEST. I'd like to make a couple of comments on that. Number one is the fact that one of the great missing pieces of this whole debate is, in fact, the airport community itself, the airlines. I find it fascinating that every time we wander into a bureaucratic solution that we seem to get mud on our shoes. When Federal Express, for example, wanted to solve its problem, it went out and took care of its problem. We heard testimony earlier from the airline industry, in fact, that they're not sure they can afford this thing, so, we're creating an answer to a question that even the airlines industry isn't sure is being asked. So, I think there is a real side of this that those of us who are in public government, like a mayor, are saying, ''Well, gee, what's your solution?'' yet the very industry that is supposed to be helped by this whole plan has not stepped up with its input either. So, it's a little unfair for us to be asked, when in fact the business community should be stepping up for this, as far as I'm concerned.
The second issue which is just as important, I think, is that in Federal Way, we are a very new city. We've only been a city for 6 years. We became a city because we had huge apartment growth. Now, all of us on our city council are for affordable housing. But there was a point where we could not afford affordable housing because the cost as far as other infrastructureschools, roads, other thingswas just too great, and so we had to slow our growth. I think it might be the same analogy, as far as the airport. And there is a point where the costs are so outsized versus the extra benefits.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CRAMER. The costs are going to go up if we wait longer. And let me, at the risk of interrupting you, ask you this.
Mr. PRIEST. Sure.
Mr. CRAMER. Are you saying that we just don't need a third runway ever, or is now just not the time for it?
Mr. PRIEST. Again, I'm not an expert, but in my judgment it is clear that right now every bit of information that we've heard today, in fact, says that there is no significant need for a third runway right now.
Mr. CRAMER. We've got seven studies, though, that reflect that we do need this third runway.
Mr. PRIEST. Many of those seven studies, for example, look to 1995 data which Congressman Tate has already pointed out the delays have decreased significantly. You're talking about seven studies over a long period of time, Congressmen, and in fact it's a very moving target. I think this is an idea whose time has gone, as opposed to an idea whose time has come.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Cramer. Chairman Clinger?
Mr. CLINGER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I just have one question, then I want to yield the balance of my time to Mr. Tate.
I was struck by the different figures used by witnesses to quantify the weather impact. One, the Port suggests that because of weather conditions and because the VFR rules are 5,000 feet, because of the closeness of the runways, therefore flight operations are affected about 44 percent of the time. In your testimony, Dr. Hockaday, you said that was about 9 percent of the time and there is a wide, wide divergence between those two figures and very significant differences there. I wonder how you could rationalize or how you rationalize the 9 percent figure because I think that is a significant difference.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. HOCKADAY. Two reasons. The first is the definition of poor weather means different things to different people. The way that it's been used by the Port is that as soon as you don't have the ability to run two full arrival streams today, everything else is regarded as poor weather.
The facts are that in below 5000 and 5 it's still possible to land additional airplanes on a second runway at Sea-Tac today, down to a weather of 2500 and 3, and that, as other airports around the country have shown, such as St. Louis and San Francisco, use of today's technology and rules will allow the two streams to continue on down to at least 1200 and 4, and people today are looking at reducing that further. So, if you say what's going on today, the answer is not 44 percent, it's something less. And if you say what will happen if we apply today's rules and do system management to make the most effective use of the airport, the answer is that in the order of 10 percent of the year is the only time that you cannot run two arrival streams at Sea-Tac.
Mr. CLINGER. Thank you. I yield the balance of my time to our host, Mr. Tate.
Mr. TATE. Thank you, Mr. Clinger. First of all, I'd like to thank the panel and I'd like to use part of my personal privilege to introduce my wife, Julie, who just came, and I wanted to make sure she got attention. And I'm not going to ask her any tough questions.
First of all, Mayor Priest, I appreciate your testimony. It was very articulate. You have quite a bit of local government experience, obviously, and extensive business sector experience.
I'd like to read something to you and I'd like to get your opinion on this. This comes from the Airport Master Plan Update, page 629. ''Based on preliminary analysis of the Port's overall debt obligations, the debt required under the financially constrained scenario may result in a downgrade in the Port's bond rating and increase the Port's cost of funds. In addition, the Port could improve the debt coverage by increasing the levy rate or replacing some of the revenue debt with general obligation debt.'' What does that tell you?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PRIEST. It means the Port is going to raise our taxes. It could mean lots of other things, but it's going to mean they're going to raise our taxes. And that scenario, interestingly enough, is actually if everything goes right they're going to increase our taxes. And if everything doesn't go right, they're going to raise them a lot more. Now, this is from the Port's own Master Plan. This is a very fascinating document that I would recommend to the Committee and the Committee's Staff, this Airport Master Plan. It just came out in January, and it is a very revealing document. Its honesty is surprising, given the disaster that it suggests.
Mr. TATE. I take it don't wait for the movie, read the book.
Mr. PRIEST. Well, yeah. One other thing that is interesting, Congressman, that you know well and I do and all the rest of the members here as local elected officials, that we don't have the opportunity to talk about just taxes. When we go to the people of Federal Way and call it a surface water management fee, the people call it a tax. When you raise the bus rate, they call it a tax, and when there is a business license, they call it a tax. And so to suggest, as I did in my earlier testimony, that we're not going to raise taxes is absolutely nonsense. There is no question that this suggests extremely strongly, this document, that property taxes are going to be raised.
But the fact is when you increase parking rates, when you increase airline tickets, when you increase the cost of hotdogs, the people that we respond to, they call it a tax because it's taking dollars out of their pocket by a public facility. And, so, I wish I had the luxury that the Port does to make that type of differentiation, but at least my constituents and I know yours, Congressman Tate, do not make that differentiation.
Mr. TATE. I know in 1993 the legislature increased taxes and, as a result of that, there was an initiative that was passed around this community and throughout the state called Initiative 601 which will require any future taxes to go to a vote of the people. How would these property rate taxes under the current scenario be increased?
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PRIEST. Well, except for the Port.
Mr. TATE. So, it's up to the Port. So, it would not be a vote of the people.
Mr. PRIEST. No.
Mr. TATE. So, it could be the dark of night.
Mr. PRIEST. 601, it is my understanding, does not apply to ports.
Mr. TATE. Okay. I would like to explore a little bit what the effect of increased property rates would have on the local communities, not just within King County. If one was to reside in Snohomish County, for example, if one was to reside in Kitsap County or if one was to reside in Pierce County, if they were to workI live in Puyallup, many people in Puyallup commute to King County or Seattle every day to work. Property taxes go up
Mr. PRIEST. Costs go up for all services.
Mr. TATE. costs go up. So, in essence, it could cost jobs or it's going to be passed on. Something is going to increase.
Mr. PRIEST. There is no free lunch in this world. I mean, I wish it was the case, but when you start taking disposable dollars away, somebody pays. And it absolutely will cost jobs, there is no question about it, because it's another tax.
Mr. TATE. So, any business, any homeowner in King County would have their taxes go up, and anybody who commutes and/or buys anything in King County would see the price of that product go up, maybe their job go away and it would have adverse effects on the local economy, I guess it would be fair to say.
Mr. PRIEST. I don't think there is any question. And when we saw a similar project just several months ago when they actually voted, Congressman Tate, on the RTA proposal in which there was a huge amount of dollars with very little benefit, when the people of the same counties that you're talking about actually had a chance to look at that proposal and said, ''My goodness, how are we spending that much money on infrastructure with so little benefit?'' which is what we're talking about here, they said no, and for the very reasons that you're mentioning, Congressman.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TATE. I would agree with earlier statements, decisions made locally are important. But I'd also add that taxes raised locally should be by a vote of the people to decide if they're going to have long-term indebtedness. I think that that's important.
Dr. Hockaday, if I may, you made three different points in your opening statement. I'd like to focus in on point number one, which was the local directional aid. Based on cost benefit analysis, how would that compare to buying a runway versus investing in that kind of technology?
Dr. HOCKADAY. It would be very much less than 1 percent of the cost of a new runway, in the order of $1 million.
Mr. TATE. So, 1 million versus a billion.
Dr. HOCKADAY. Yeah.
Mr. TATE. Okay. I just wanted to clarify that.
Dr. Michaelis, if I'm not mistaken, you're a nationally known economist, you've been involved in the National Association of Economists, and we really appreciate the fact that you're here. You state that there is no crisis and you also stated that we're going to spend a billion-4, a billion-5 or whatever. It changes. It's like hitting a moving target, trying to figure out what the price of this thing is going to be. But let's say it's $1 billion, all said and done, but it's only going to have a 1 percent return. You've been in business and you've worked for a corporation. If you were going to spend $1 billion and get a 1 percent return, that's either a really, really big company, or really, really bad investment.
Dr. MICHAELIS. Or a really stupid company.
Mr. TATE. Or a really stupid company.
Dr. MICHAELIS. An investment like that would probably cause the shareholders to vote the senior management team out of their positions, obviously. That is not the kind of investment that we'd like to divert our capital towards. We look for more like 12 to 15 percent return on invested capital, not 1 or less.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TATE. So, as a business person who you make your living doing economic forecasts, that you would see kind of the handwriting on the wall on this particular project.
Dr. MICHAELIS. Well, clearly, what we look at, and the problem here is we don't have a private market pricing scheme to determine whether there is scarcity. What we would look at is the factors that drive the demand for our product and what relative prices would we expect to happen over time that would even justify incremental investments on a capital project. We expand facilities based on what we think the incremental demand and price for that product is. That is not even possible here because we do not talk about prices.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Tate, we'll go now to Mr. Hutchinson and, if he has any time left, he can yield you additional time also, if he wishes. Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Hockaday, would you explain to the Committee what is meant by the term ''the Colorado Springs effect''?
Dr. HOCKADAY. The Colorado Springs effect that I'm familiar with is that the expenditure of in the order of $4 billion to build the new Denver International Airport resulted in higher rates and charges to the airlines at that airport. As a result of that, it became competitively possible for other communities to offer service at lower costs. As a result, some airlines then start to operate from adjacent airports at lower costs and provide competitive services. So, even if you can provide a lot of capacity, which the new Denver airport has done, if you provide it at such high cost that the rates and charges go up, you're going to price yourself out of the market. And airlines, being a competitive industry, will find a way of providing a product that gives the community and the passengers lower cost service.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Now, how detailed has been your analysis of what kind of impact there would be in the Seattle-Tacoma area with a third runway?
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. HOCKADAY. It has not been in great detail. The nearest I can say is that the 2 or more billion dollars of expenditures, as shown in the financial analyses, demonstrate that the rates and charges will increase significantly and that there are alternatives in the community that some either existing or new airlines might take advantage of as soon as a competitive difference in price exists.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. On your emphasis upon the LDA approach and using that as opposed to the third runway, you said it was a million-dollar investment on the LDA versus whatever the third runway would cost. What would the area get? How much of the need would actually be met by the LDA?
Dr. HOCKADAY. Well, even taking the Port's number of 44 percent poor weather, that you can get immediately 34 percent of that 44 percent, or three-quarters of the poor weather problem will go away as soon as you implement an LDA. And, as I mentioned before, if you look at the peak hours of the day, daytime, if you look at the summer months when the traffic is there, the percent of weather is very much lower in those times than the average over the year. So, in peak conditions, you're getting rid of 90 percent of the poor weather problem.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Would the third runway, though, give you a lot of other benefits that couldn't be evaluated just in terms of the weather and the delays?
Dr. HOCKADAY. No. As far as I can tell, it gives you just benefits. A couple of examples of those are the potential safety problems in additional taxi distances associated with taxiing across two active runways. Runway incursion is a significant problem around the country, and it should be avoided wherever possible.
The other thing is that the interactions with Boeing Field mean that the separations between aircraft, either at Sea-Tac or Boeing Field, will have to be increased in order to deal with the conflict if there is a new runway. And, as a result, it may even result in a reduction in capacity and not an increase in capacity.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. Dr. Michaelis, on the $50 million estimate that the Port of Seattle has given on the mitigation of noise and the replacement of disturbed wetlands, do you agree with that estimate? Do you think that is reasonable? And if not, what is your feeling?
Dr. MICHAELIS. Having personal experience, because I lived in Federal Way six miles from the airport and my life has been disrupted by the airport, I think they are trivially low. The amount of mitigation that would be required, if you really took the area in terms of the number of houses, the number of lives that are involved, and the extent to which you'd have to upgrade hospitals, schools, houses, to fully deal with the kind of traffic increases we're talking about, that is a very small number. The airport is going on the low end of potential mitigation costs.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson. Ms. Seastrand?
Ms. SEASTRAND. I would just like to ask Dr. Hockaday if the LDA was ever considered by the Port and what conclusions they came to.
Dr. HOCKADAY. Yes, it was considered by the Port. It is mentioned in the EIS. But they made the assumption that it would not operate below 2500-foot ceiling and 3-mile visibility. And because of that, the full benefits of an LDA were not considered in the EIS.
Ms. SEASTRAND. Earlier I had met some of the people that are here at the hearing. One gentleman said he lived in the area for 40 years. His life will be disrupted because apparently he's a resident. Earlier this morning members of the Subcommittee took a small little jaunt in the area where the third runway will be proposed. I noticed a significant number of residents, and I was just wondering, Mr. Priest, could you tell me how many people will be, for lack of a better term, dislocated with the construction of the third runway?
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PRIEST. I can't give you that specific number because there is always a debate about what the level of disruption is. We tend to have this discussion about LDNs and other esoteric things where if it's 65 LDN or below, it's okay, which is the average, as you know. I'm reminded that the LDN in fact also can be looked at as far as aircraft noises. If you hit your thumb with a hammer four times in an hour, from an average standpoint, it doesn't hurt very much. But, at the same time, those four times when you hit your hand with the hammer, it hurts a lot. So, there is an ongoing debate in terms of how many people will be disrupted. The answer is, a lot, and it's a lot more than people think.
We can certainly provide you with some more specifics in terms of circles or other things. But I think we tend to look at specific numbers and try to draw it around the neighborhood. The reality is, in Steele Lake Park, which is a major regional park five miles away in our city, when you have a south flow, you cannot hear conversation. On average, you can hear conversation, but at intervals, it's impossible. So, it is very clear in my mind that we tend to get into techno-jargon about disruption and try to identify a neighborhood here, a neighborhood there. The fact is that the disruption is much greater than the numbers show to, I would say, thousands upon thousands of families.
Ms. SEASTRAND. And how many will physically have to relocate due to the physical building of the third runway?
Mr. PRIEST. I can't answer that, although we can certainly provide it. The Port, I'm sure, can.
Ms. SEASTRAND. I'll yield back my time to Mr. Tate for any additional questions.
Mr. TATE. Thank you, Congresswoman Seastrand. I just want to follow up on one more question because I want to clarify this with Mr. Priest. The communities in King County, the citizens of King County are literally, as we would say, cosigners or signees on these taxes or this agreement, but yet they have no say.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PRIEST. That's correct.
Mr. TATE. So, the citizens, if this runway was to go into effect, they would become the cosigners. They would be expected to back this up with the full faith and credit of the taxpayers of King County.
Mr. PRIEST. Apparently, according to this document, there are two choices. We're either going to raise taxes, or the Port is going to be putting out additional general obligation bonds and then, in effect, all of us in this room become cosigners on the bonds.
Mr. TATE. Without a vote of the people.
Mr. PRIEST. Without a vote of the people.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right, thank you very much. Mr. Metcalf?
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My first question is for Dr. Michaelis.
You mentioned Paine Field, and that, for the panel, is where the Boeing 747 planes are built and where they have their test flight for all the 747 airplanes. The introduction of commercial use to Paine Field would have an immense impact. And if you think the criticism of the third runway is something, try introducing a new idea of adding commercial flights at Paine Field. You'll get a real response. Are you still suggesting this?
Dr. MICHAELIS. I'm glad you raised the issue. This brings up exactly what the Puget Sound Regional Council was all about. It was a highly political process. When the other airports were raised, and Paine Field is economically viable, the issue is they are resisting the very thing the people in South King County are resisting, which is more flights over their property. The issue is, and if the voting was done correctly, Mr. Metcalf, is what is it the other counties or the other residents, the other 88 percent that support the expansion of a third runway, are willing to pay the people of South King County to have further noise over their heads? I would suggest we ought to eliminate property taxes in the 65 LDN area and raise taxes elsewhere in the county and then see what the vote would be.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. METCALF. I personally have to say that the local decision made by that council, the one that you're finding fault with it, and I'll just tell you that I find a lot of support for it.
Dr. MICHAELIS. It's a political decision, not an economic decision.
Mr. METCALF. My next question is for Dr. Hockaday. Are you really saying that delays are being reduced, delays are going down at Sea-Tac?
Dr. HOCKADAY. Yes. You saw a chart introduced by Congressman Tate earlier, and part of the reason for that is the Federal Aviation Administration has introduced new separation rules between aircraft, allowed the aircraft to be closer to each other, and that has allowed the delays to reduce.
Mr. METCALF. And is that predicted for the future, that they'll continue to reduce?
Dr. HOCKADAY. The LDA approach that I described to you would allow the delays to continue to reduce, and they wouldn't get back to 1990 or 1993 levels until close to the year 2020.
Mr. METCALF. You mentioned that they're handling the capacity problems at the St. Louis airport. Are you aware that St. Louis is proposing a new $400 million runway?
Dr. HOCKADAY. Yes, and they're having exactly the same problems that we were describing here, not the least of which is that TWA, the dominant carrier there, is in a financially difficult situation and there is a real danger that the increase in the airline rates and charges at St. Louis may do real damage to TWA.
Mr. METCALF. Did you testify against the last major runway project in this country, that is the one at Dallas-Fort Worth?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. HOCKADAY. Yes, I did.
Mr. METCALF. Was the same law firm fighting that runway that is also fighting this one?
Dr. HOCKADAY. I believe so.
Mr. METCALF. Were you paid by that firm?
Dr. HOCKADAY. No.
Mr. METCALF. You were not paid by that firm. And you are not currently being paid by that firm.
Dr. HOCKADAY. I have specifically determined that I will not be paid to come and prepare this testimony. In the past, I have been paid by that firm. I've also been paid by the Port for work here and by PSRC or its predecessor.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. Mr. White?
Mr. WHITE. Thank you very much. I'd like to say first how proud I am of the witnesses we had today. We had people from all over this part of the region. I can tell you you're much more succinct, much more concise and, frankly, much more persuasive on both sides of the issue than we normally see in Washington, D.C. I want to tell you I'm very proud of that. And I'd also like to say I'm proud of the audience. These are strong, emotional issues. I think this audience has been very respectful for both sides of the issue, and that, I think, is a good example to show to this community and it makes us very proud of our community.
I've just got a couple quick questions, first, for Dr. Hockaday. You probably don't know this, Dr. Hockaday, I'm sure you know that we're a highly effective trading area in the country right here. One of the things I noticed when I started reading up on the history of our country, that the city of Seattle was actually founded by Arthur Dennyhe was one of the first pioneers to arrive hereby paddling around Puget Sound in a boat with an anchor on the end of a rope, trying to find the deepest part of the harbor. Our economy here, right from the very beginning, has been founded on trade, and a lot of it has been international trade. Assuming we end up with additional airports, regional airports, or made use of those, wouldn't we still expect the majority of international flights, for example, to leave from a central place? You're the expert on this and I'd like to hear your thoughts on it, but it seems to me that at least in terms of international flights we're probably going to continue to see those concentrated at Sea-Tac, no matter what we do with the regional airports.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. HOCKADAY. You're absolutely correct. If you look at San Francisco International or Los Angeles International, those are the prime airports in the region. That's where pretty much 99 percent of the international traffic takes place. What the other airports in those regions do is allow more convenient access for the passengers and reduce the congestion at the main airport.
Mr. WHITE. Would you be suggesting then that if we did use other airports, there would be transportation between the airport for those people connecting with international flights, or would feeder flights to the international flights still tend to come through Sea-Tac?
Dr. HOCKADAY. Typically, passengers choose their flights in order to avoid having to deal with ground transportation between the two. I guess the one exception would be LaGuardia to Kennedy.
Mr. WHITE. Right. I'm familiar with that one. Dr. Michaelis, let me ask you a question or two. As I understand it, your primary objection to the problem at the airport now, you think we're using the wrong pricing scheme, we're not letting the prices reflect what the true demand is. As I understood your testimony, what you're saying is we should let the prices rise until we can see how much demand there is at that higher price. I mean, is that essentially what you're suggesting?
Dr. MICHAELIS. In effect. If we're talking about a scarce resource, like anything else, if we're getting overcrowding of the airport, it just suggests to me that we're not allocating that scarce space correctly. Your point, could international flights with 400 people outbid a commuter flight with 10 people for the space? The answer is yes.
Mr. WHITE. And I understand that. But if we are going to reduce the use of that resource, reduce the use of the airport by letting the prices go up, we're going to price out of the business the lower priced flights. It's going to reduce the amount of air traffic availability to people in our region, isn't it? Isn't that the logical consequence of what you're telling us?
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. MICHAELIS. Not necessarily. It may reduce the frequency. For instance, one may say how many flights to Portland do you need a day. You, in effect, may go to bigger planes, the flights might not be as frequent, but does that mean you still couldn't get to Portland? The answer is no.
Mr. WHITE. But I think it would be less convenient. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Your point is if you let the market do it, it will raise the price, it will reduce the convenience, but that might give us more use out of our facility.
Dr. MICHAELIS. It will give us a more accurate reflection of what the real demand is for that resource.
Mr. WHITE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. White. The time has now expired for Panel Number One, and so, gentlemen, thank you very much for your most helpful testimony.
I'll ask Panel Two to come back at this time, and that's Ms. Lindsey, Mr. Wallace, and Mr. Merlis.
Mr. Merlis, let me ask you this. You know the FAA has just announced an initiative to start what they call free flight, which the airlines estimate will save them approximately 1.2 or $1.3 billion a year because it will allow more efficient use of the airspace and cut down on delays and all of that. You may have heard Dr. Hockaday testify that because of other improvements that have already been made, that they won't go back to the delays at the '92-93 level until the year 2020. Do you think that these initiatives or these advancements will help alleviate the need or would alleviate the need for a third runway?
Mr. MERLIS. I do not think that the situation with respect to free flight would have a significant impact with respect to a third runway. The principal reason is that free flight is more for the on-route sector of transportation or of travel, rather than the local travel into the airport specifically.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to the LDA situation, I just would point out that it is really just a stopgap solution. When you undertake that, there are going to be a lot of communities which currently don't have planes flying over them, which now will have planes flying over them. So, it is not necessarily the answer. I think that GPS and other kinds of systems will provide some enhancement, no question about it. But with respect to those two specifics, free flight isn't the answer for the local issue. LDA may create some other problems in the area.
Mr. DUNCAN. And the GPS, the Global Positioning System won't
Mr. MERLIS. That could help a lot.
Mr. DUNCAN. That would help a lot.
Mr. MERLIS. Clearly.
Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Lindsey, you heard Mayor Priest testify that it was nonsense to say that your plans for the airport won't raise taxes and fees to the public. What do you say in response to that?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, it certainly will not raise taxes. It's been longstanding Port Commission policy not to use any of the property tax levy on the airport. It all goes to the seaport.
As far as rates and fees to airlines, there will certainly be some impact to rates and fees to airlines. And we have many different revenue sources. We have a fairly rigorous business plan at the airport, given that we understand the competitive nature of airports these days. And pricing ourselves out of the market and being a victim of what I think Dr. Hockaday was talking about relative to the Colorado Springs effect is something we are actively being sure that we don't ever fall victim to. We have a specific cost to the airlines that we have pledged to stay within by the year 2000, and we intend to do that.
Mr. DUNCAN. What percentage of your business is general aviation at this time?
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LINDSEY. We have almost no general aviation. Almost all of our operations are commercial service.
Mr. DUNCAN. And what percentage of your business is commuter type airlines?
Ms. LINDSEY. It's about 40 percent of our operations that are commuter.
Mr. DUNCAN. About 40 percent. Mr. Wallace, what do you say in response to the assertion by Dr. Michaelis that Paine Field is a potential alternative for some of the traffic, and do you see any other alternatives at all?
Mr. WALLACE. Well, my personal view, which differs from that of the Port, is that ultimately there will be a need for a Paine Field or similarly situated facility in the north, and there will be another need for something similar in the south as our population grows over the next 20, 30 years and as demand to go someplace also increases from those communities. But right now, our primary concern can't be met by something that is either at the extreme north or the extreme south end of our region, but that it needs to be met at Sea-Tac.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right, thank you very much. Mr. Cramer?
Mr. CRAMER. Thank you. Our panel members here, you've heard us talk with the other panel members about the delays, the fact that the delays from Sea-Tac have in fact decreased in recent years. While arguments in support of a third runway are persuasive as we look down the line, are existing delays still significant enough to require a third runway if we'd look strictly at that issue?
Ms. LINDSEY. I'll address that, Congressman. Our arrival delays at this point are about one minute for VFR traffic. That is not significant. However, when we get into VFR-2 traffic and on into IFR, which is indeed 44 percent of the time we are in a single stream flow, our VFR-2 delays are 11 minutes on an average arrival, and IFR is 22 minutes on arrival. That is projected to increase under IFR conditions to 70 minutes for IFR arrivals by the year 2015.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think we need to address head on the issue of this ATMs data which is what Congressman Tate showed very effectively in his chart. That is data that is not measuring aircraft arrival delays at airports. It is an air traffic control measure and measurement. It is not measuring the kinds of delays that we are experiencing on the ground at the airport. And we do have more detail about that, if you'd like. But it's essentially measuring a completely different phenomenon and part of air traffic than arrivals at airports.
Mr. CRAMER. Thank you for shedding further light on that.
Let's talk about the cost of the runway. It's certainly a costly project, if you look at other airports and what they're doing. But having driven around part of the airport today, we've got a terrain out there that certainly will have to be built with fill dirt, wherever that's going to come from. But would any one of you or all of you talk about that cost and how you see that? You've got other airport improvements, and only a portion of that can come from the federal government from the AIP program. So, would you just talk to us some about the cost of that third runway?
Ms. LINDSEY. I'll lead off. It certainly is a significant project. And the relevance of that cost, I think, has to be contrasted with the solution. The issue here is that the airport needs a second arrival stream in bad weather conditions. And certainly it would be nice if we could get that for $60 million. At this airport we cannot get that for $60 million. The other alternatives, such as building a new airport, is estimated at over $4 billion. The high-speed rail potential solution, which would be connecting Vancouver, B.C., Seattle and Portland, is estimated at over $9 billion. So, the issue is contrasting that cost with the other solutions, and we are very confident in the cost. The cost that we cite at $405 million with $50 million in mitigation is the longest runway option. We still have three runway options that are on the books. Every other option is less expensive than that, but nonetheless, they're significant costs.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CRAMER. What portion of that cost will be borne by the airlines?
Ms. LINDSEY. That's basically dependent to a great degree on how much federal money we get access to.
Mr. CRAMER. What are the airlines' reaction to that?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, I think perhaps Mr. Merlis is best to address that.
Mr. MERLIS. Sir, that's the reason for our indecision. Until we have a clear cut business plan indicating how much is expected of the carriers, we cannot assess whether or not that cost is worth the investment in terms of reduced delays. And so, we're on the fence in that respect until we have some clear cut numbers on that issue.
Mr. CRAMER. You've had a number of other public hearings about this matter around the region. Is that correct?
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes.
Mr. CRAMER. Some 25 in number or whatever?
Ms. LINDSEY. At least.
Mr. CRAMER. Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Cramer. We'll go next to Mr. Tate.
Mr. TATE. Once again, I'd like to thank this panel. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day, and you're very articulate in your particular position.
Ms. Lindsey, I'd like to read you the following passage, and I quote, ''The funding picture presented in the demand-driven scenario is clearly burdensome to airlines and probably infeasible as defined. The gap between the current CPE, the cost per enplanement, and the level projected under the baseline conditions must be narrowed and brought into line with the Port's policy direction of meeting with the CPE''which is the cost per enplanement''target of $7.35 in the year 2002.'' Do you recognize that?
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LINDSEY. I don't specifically, but my guess is it's from Task 8 of our Master Plan.
Mr. TATE. This is actually from your Draft Master Plan that the FAA said that was unrealistic. In the more recent one, all the numbers are the same; the language is different.
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, being unrealistic is a value judgment that I don't know that the consultant is prepared or qualified to make. We certainly have a challenge of investment ahead of us. No one certainly at the Port begs that question. We absolutely have a challenge. However, we have several alternatives available to us as to how we finance these improvements. And it is certainly not infeasible. Given the business plan that I referenced earlier, we have an agreement with our carriers and we work very closely with them that we are going to keep their costs well within range.
I'll give you an example. In the last 3 years, since 1993, our cost per enplanement, which is the airlines' cost at operating at this airport, was $7.19. We've brought that cost down to $4.93. We are pledging to the airlines that cost is not going to exceed $7.35 in the year 2000, simply because we are building in the capacity to take care of the construction challenges that we have ahead of us. We're doing this in a very responsible manner to stay market viable.
Mr. TATE. That's a great answer, but it comes back to the point that I'm trying to make, the fact that your own report, put out by the Port of Seattle, paid for by people at the Port of Seattle, says your own plan is infeasible.
Ms. LINDSEY. I don't think our final report says it is infeasible.
Mr. TATE. Well, I know it doesn't. You changed it. And that's my point. It's like when I used to sell my car, you know, I had a '76 beat-up Corolla, I could say this is a piece of junk or I could say it's a really good car, but it's still the same car.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think the point is what we're saying on the report is you can change the language all you want and say this is a really great plan, but the numbers haven't changed from when they made their original statement that it was infeasible and burdensome on the airlines. That was in your own report. It wasn't something that I made up.
Ms. LINDSEY. It is not infeasible.
Mr. TATE. It says, the funding picture presented in the demand-driven scenario is clearly burdensome to airlines and is probably indefensibleinfeasiblethat tooinfeasible as defined. I mean, that's your own report from your own plan with the exact same numbers. The only difference is once the FAA recommended the changes, you changed the language and didn't change the numbers.
Ms. LINDSEY. I don't know that FAA recommended a change in the language. Clearly, if we do not have access to federal money on this project, it will be burdensome on the airlines.
Mr. TATE. I have some notes here, if you'd like to look at afterwards, that the FAA wrote and commented on your report.
The next question that I would like to have, in your written testimony, and I quote, ''In fact, the Port of Seattle property tax revenues have never been used for Sea-Tac improvements.''
Ms. LINDSEY. Correct.
Mr. TATE. Now, one of the things that I have found and one of the reasons people have very little faith in their government is because they hear one thing and then they get something else. One of the reasons Initiative 601 passed is people were concerned about politicians raising taxes. One of the reasons I signed the Contract with America is because people wanted us to sign our name on the dotted line, that if we said we're going to do something, then we are going to do it. Can you pledge to us today unequivocally that any tax increases go before a vote of the people before they're approved?
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LINDSEY. No, sir, I cannot do that. The reason the Commission has the authority to increase taxes, should they need to do so, without a vote of the people is because the people actually voted a greater capacity for taxation than the Port of Seattle has imposed.
Mr. TATE. My question was if you state without a shadow of a doubt that they've never raised taxes before, then why would they be afraid to sign a pledge that it would go to a vote of the people to ensure that they keep their word?
Ms. LINDSEY. The issue here, Congressman, is that I don't have that authority. Only the Commission has that authority.
Mr. TATE. But you have the authority to come to this hearing and promote a $1.4 billion project that's clearly unfeasible, as stated, but yet you don't have the authority to say whether the Port is willing to put its name on the dotted line and sign a pledge that says we will not raise taxes. You stated very clearly they have nothing to worry about. Put your name on the dotted line and then we'll all feel a lot better.
Ms. LINDSEY. Congressman, I do not have the authority.
I also do not have the authority to approve this project. This project has been approved regionally. It has not been approved by the Port of Seattle Commission, and I don't have the authority to approve it for the Commission, nor do I have the authority to take away the Commission's power to impose taxes.
Mr. TATE. All I can say, Ms. Lindsey, is if you don't rule it out as an option, and it's an option on your list in your Master Plan, then I have to assume it's an option.
Ms. LINDSEY. It absolutely is an option, which is why it had to be listed as an option in the Master Plan.
Mr. TATE. Right. I mean, we've had 7 years and seven studies, as you so clearly state. But you can't give us any assurance that our property taxes aren't going to go up. You say they didn't go up in the past, but you can't promise us they won't go up in the future because you won't sign your name on the dotted line, which tells me that is why people are disaffected with their government. If you're so confident that they won't, then why don't we sign a pledge today that the Port won't raise taxes unless we have a vote of the people. In the spirit of 601, which the voters of this state clearly said is something they want, I would hope the Port would go along with it. Wouldn't you?
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LINDSEY. In the last 15 years the Port has spent $664 million
Mr. TATE. I'm not asking about the past. I'm not asking about the past, Ms. Lindsey, I'm talking about the future.
Ms. LINDSEY. on improvements. I understand.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right, thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Tate. We'll go next to Chairman Clinger.
Mr. CLINGER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was struck with the fact I think you've testified that nearly 40 percent of the traffic is commuter traffic at the airport.
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes.
Mr. CLINGER. Is that in line with most airports, or is that higher than many or about the same?
Ms. LINDSEY. It's in line with many origin-destination airports. We're not a typical hub airport, such as Chicago or Dallas-Fort Worth
Mr. CLINGER. Right.
Ms. LINDSEY. so we have many of our smaller areas in the large Northwest Region, which Sea-Tac serves, that are served by commuters. And there are many other airports that serve that same function in their respective regions. But if you compare it to a Dallas or Chicago, it wouldn't be the same.
Mr. CLINGER. Well, that's what struck me. I mean, you are an origin and destination airport
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes.
Mr. CLINGER. with not a whole lot of transiting aircraft.
Ms. LINDSEY. Right.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLINGER. Would one of the ways that you could relieve the pressure and the tension that exist at the airport now, is there another option for the commuter aircraft?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, there really isn't, and I'll address that briefly and then I'll ask Mr. Merlis to give the airline perspective on it.
Essentially, if we had that commuter traffic being served at a different site than their connecting long-haul traffic, we've complicated the transfer in that now we've got a remote airport where we have to then provide ground transportation for the passenger from that remote airport into Sea-Tac to catch their long-haul flight. So, it really makes the transportation process much more cumbersome, potentially much more environmentally affecting, and it is not at all a market-viable issue for the airlines at this point.
Mr. CLINGER. But I think you said about 30 percent of those are transiting, are people who would need to go from a commuter to a longer-haul aircraft.
Ms. LINDSEY. Correct. Right.
Mr. CLINGER. Mr. Merlis?
Mr. MERLIS. Yes, Mr. Clinger. The situation would be very difficult, actually untenable, because you're taking small airplanes which have a mix of people who are just going to Seattle and a mix of those who are going to continue on on the national system. And if you were to have them land at a different airport, the problem you have is for those who perhaps are going to Seattle it's not so difficult. But for those who are continuing on, transit time from one airport to the other adds immeasurably. After all, most of these commuter flights are an hour or less, and the likelihood is that more people would drive straight to Sea-Tac and probably reduce the economic viability of the commuters just carrying passengers to Seattle. So, split operations generally do not work.
I somewhat earlier cited LaGuardia. There are only a thousand passengers a day who go between Kennedy and LaGuardia, and it is something to be avoided at all costs. I wouldn't want anybody to emulate that situation.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LINDSEY. Congressman, I should clarify. 30 percent of our total passengers are connecting passengers. But if we just look at the commuter segment of that passenger mix, 50 percent of them are connecting.
Mr. CLINGER. 50 percent
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes.
Mr. CLINGER. Mr. Wallace, I think you suggested that this is only a temporary solution, a short-term solution to the problem. And you indicated that within the not-too-distant future you're going to have to have a more comprehensive north component, a south component and so forth. Could you repeat that a little bit for me? I'm wondering to what extent are we really solving the problem by putting a third runway in?
Mr. WALLACE. Well, I think to a great extent because until technology or some other solution materializes, this will get us a 10- to 20-year solution that we can palpate. There may be changes that will occur. But our long-range forecasting by the Puget Sound Air Transportation Committee indicated that at some point in the future, if population and employment trends continue, there will be a need for other airports in the state of Washington that hopefully will pick up some of that load. But those are not going to solve any problems for us today because there simply isn't the population or the employment or the transportation demand to make them viable operations today and to take significant loads away from Sea-Tac.
Mr. CLINGER. Do you have a PFC in place now?
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes, we do.
Mr. CLINGER. And do you contemplate that that will be a major part of the financing of this overall program?
Ms. LINDSEY. We do see it as a source for paying for this.
Mr. CLINGER. To what extent?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, that again is up in the air, like all of the other funding options, based primarily on needing to nail down our access to AIP dollars as a cornerstone.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLINGER. So, the size and the scope and the length of the PFC would depend upon what you see coming out of the Trust Fund.
Ms. LINDSEY. Correct.
Mr. CLINGER. Unfortunately, my time has expired.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Chairman Clinger. Mr. Hutchinson?
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Lindsey, I'm assuming that the aircraft landing fees will increase. That's a given?
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes, I think that's fair to say.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. There is no firm estimate on what that would amount to?
Ms. LINDSEY. Not for the landing fees specifically. Again, we've aggregated all of the airline fees and rolled them into a cost per enplanement, which is a kind of typical industry standard measurement, and we've put a lid on the cost per enplanement which would cover airline terminal rents, their landing fees, all of their costs at the airport. So, essentially, the lid that we have defined is $7.35 in the year 2000.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. I don't really fully understand how you can give that lid and have it firm and assured.
Ms. LINDSEY. The variable is that if it looks like our costs are such that we're going to exceed that, we obviously have some reprioritizing of capital projects and improvements to the airport that we need to take a look at, and we obviously have to be very, very rigorous about our operating and maintenance expenses. So, there are several variables that can move around, but not without impact.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. You said historically the property taxes were never used for the airport.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LINDSEY. Correct.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Is there a legal prohibition on that?
Ms. LINDSEY. No. Not that I know of.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. So, it's only a historic precedent and by vote of the Port?
Ms. LINDSEY. The Port of Seattle Commission, yes.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. They could then divert property taxes to the airport if theyI mean, just a simple vote.
Ms. LINDSEY. I think they could. Yes. Legally, I think they could. But historically, that has never happened. And given the capacity constraints on the marine side, it seems very unlikely.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. On the percentage of traffic that is general aviation, did I hear correctly that it's 40 percent at Sea-Tac?
Ms. LINDSEY. No. 40 percent is the commuter. General aviation is certainly less than 5 percent, probably less than 1, about 2 percent.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Okay. And of the 40 percent that is commuter, did you say that about 50 percent of that was connecting?
Ms. LINDSEY. Correct.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. So, that would still leave quite a bit that could conceivably use other area airports without impact upon some of the other considerations that were brought up on travel and inconvenience and so forth.
Ms. LINDSEY. Conceivably. However, from a market standpoint, it's very expensive for an airline to have split operations.
Mr. MERLIS. Mr. Hutchinson, if you want to ask Mr. Weller about the arguments we're having in Illinois about trying to split operations with the proposed South Suburban Airport, the carriers really do not believe that you have a financially viable situation when you split the operation. Using Horizon, which is the Alaska Airlines commuter in this area, if they were to split operations between two different airports, you would significantly reduce the access that people have into the system.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. I guess what I'm thinking is when you look at the various things that have been suggested that might minimize some of the delay problems at Sea-Tac, including the LDA and the possibility of other airports, so that you're going to get some relief there, this is a huge price tag on this thing. If it were not done now, if you took other measures to mitigate the need, is there anything that would preclude the third runway being built a decade from now if the situation warranted it at that point? Ms. Lindsey?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, I think the practicality of the public process is that we've already been at this for 7 years and we're a long ways from having an operational runway.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. It seems you're also a long ways from having a consensus.
Ms. LINDSEY. I don't think we will ever have unanimous support, and I don't think the Region ever has seen that on any project. What we do have is almost 90 percentin fact, specifically 88 percent of the representatives of the local governments that have approved this project.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. If I have any time left, Mr. Tate, I'll yield it.
Mr. TATE. How much time does he have, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. DUNCAN. About a minute. That's it.
Mr. TATE. He who hesitates is lost.
Mr. DUNCAN. We'll go on to Mrs. Seastrand, then.
Ms. SEASTRAND. I have a question. Earlier, someone gave a dollar figure of $170 million for noise mitigation and still in the process of paying for that from the 1972 runway. Is that correct?
Ms. LINDSEY. That's correct, as far as what has been spent so far. 1300 homes have been acquired and the residents relocated, 3700 homes have been sound insulated. Those two actions represent the $170 million that's been spent. There is an additional $130 million to be spent. We're insulating homes at the rate of 110 each month. By the time we're finished with what we have already promised to do, we will have spent $300 million on noise insulation and acquisition.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. SEASTRAND. What was the projected cost back in 1972?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, I think it was inflated out toward completion, and I think we've always been expecting about $300 million.
Ms. SEASTRAND. So, now I read that the cost estimate to mitigate noise and replace also disturbed wetlands would be about $50 million. Do you agree with that estimate?
Ms. LINDSEY. 50 million, I think that's on our handout here. Yes. We agree with that estimate. And part of the reason that the mitigation for noise is not higher is because of that assertive action on the part of the Port from committing to that noise insulation and acquisition program years ago.
Ms. SEASTRAND. In other words, of the $50 million, a very small amount would be for noise mitigation, it would basically go to the wetland mitigation?
Ms. LINDSEY. Yes. Essentially, the noise mitigation was committed to years ago and we're underway with it, and we essentially forward funded that. It could be looked at that way.
Ms. SEASTRAND. As I said earlier, we were in the area where the runway is projected to be. Where would all the fill come from? I was really amazed at the hilliness of the area. Where is the thought that all of this land is going to come from, or fill is going to come from?
Ms. LINDSEY. Well, there are many options, and it's really one of those things that really is subject to our construction mitigation plan. We're working very, very hard to be sure that the sources that actually become the most viable and cost effective are ones that don't rely on surface transportation on local streets. There are offshore options that we will be exploring. Whether they're completely viable yet or not we don't know until we get further into our construction mitigation plan, but there are options.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. SEASTRAND. With that, I'll yield the remainder of my time to Mr. Tate.
Mr. TATE. Ms. Lindsey, I want to follow up again. You have not ruled out, then, the fact that property taxes could go up as an option.
Ms. LINDSEY. The Port of Seattle's policy
Mr. TATE. Yes or no? My question is have you ruled it out or not?
Ms. LINDSEY. The policy is that there is not an increase to property taxes.
Mr. TATE. I'd like to read from the Airport Master Plan, 629. ''Based on preliminary analysis of the Port's overall debt obligations, the debt required under the financially constrained scenario may result in a downgrade in the Port's bond rating and an increase in the Port's cost of funds. In addition, the Port could improve the debt coverage by increasing the levy rate or replacing some of the revenue debt with general-obligation bonds.''
Ms. LINDSEY. I just came from the rating agency presentations the end of last week. We'll not be getting a downgrade, and they're fully aware of our capital improvements
Mr. TATE. So, if you issue revenue bonds, which are riskier, it will cost more. And if you issue general-obligation bonds, they have to be backed up by the full faith and credit of the taxpayers. That's why the interest rates are lower. So, if you issue revenue bonds, they will be more expensive, which will drive up costs. And if you issue general-obligation bonds, they have to be backed up by the taxpayers. So, are you ruling out the fact that taxes might go up?
Ms. LINDSEY. No, I'm not ruling that out.
Mr. TATE. Okay, that's what I wanted to know. So, if it's listed as a viable option here as something in your report, or at least considered, I guess I'd like to ask what else in this report do we know is accurate? Do we know the cost estimates are accurate? Do we know the forecastings are accurate? Do we know that we've looked at all viable alternatives? Do we know there won't be a fourth runway, by following this?
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I truly respect you and I think you're defending their position, but I think you're in a position of defending the indefensible. It would be nice to have a Port Commissioner up here to answer some of these questions as well, if you're not allowed to speak on their behalf on whether there's going to be a vote of the people. But I would like to see a vote of the people. I think they have a right to be heard on this particular issue because I think they know in the back of their minds, because they've seen government work just a little bit too long, that if we don't rule it out as an option, it's guaranteed it will be and it will be increased taxes.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right, thank you very much. Mr. Metcalf?
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My first question is for Bob Wallace.
From the perspective of the business community, what would be the consequences of not expanding Sea-Tac?
Mr. WALLACE. We think that to not expand Sea-Tac will not able us to provide the kind of service that is state of the art for business communities throughout the world. Seattle, especially given its topography, located at the edge of the contiguous United States, given its proximity to international trade activities, which is what's caused many of those high-value and family wage jobs to locate here in the first place, if we lose the ability to remain efficient and easily accessible to the rest of the world, then we will not be able to retain the kinds of businesses, like Microsoft and the biotech industry and many, many other industries that are the backbone of our economy, because they simply cannot exist without that kind of service. So, that's why it's one of the top priorities of the business community, both in Seattle and state wide, to preserve that efficiency, safety and capacity here.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you. A second question. Some critics have said that Sea-Tac is already adequate to meet the region's air capacity needs and that no alternatives are needed. Do you really believe this, in light of the predictions from demographers, that Washington State's population will increase by 18 percent between now and 2005, with the majority of people coming into the Puget Sound region?
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALLACE. While I don't have accurate statistics that I can quote, my perception is that generally those statistics have understated reality. My own belief is, and I think that of the regional councils that study these matters, that we are in for some very substantial population and employment growth in the Puget Sound region. We are already approaching capacity at Sea-Tac, and we believe that only common sense would indicate that if we're going to increase our jobs and population by 18 to 25 percent over the next 7 or 8 years, we absolutely will have increased pressure on the airport, which is already approaching its limitation.
Mr. METCALF. Dr. Hockaday and several others who have testified have said or implied that not all the alternatives have been considered, you haven't studied it long enough or you haven't looked at all the options. Do you believe that the public was adequately involved and covered all possible options?
Mr. WALLACE. Yes, sir. Having participated in literally dozens of public meetings and hearings and studies, we have studied, as is our customas you know, in this part of the world we study things, sometimes to death. This issue is perhaps the most well considered and publicly aired project that I'm aware of, and I believe that the public of Washington State have had ample opportunity to study it and to comment, and those comments have been very carefully considered.
Mr. METCALF. My last question to you, tell us a little bit about Air Washington. It isn't often that business and labor come together on an issue like this, is it?
Mr. WALLACE. Well, I like to think that there has been great progress between business and labor over the last many years, in this part of the country, especially. And we certainly have our differences, and when we do, we're honest about arguing and maintaining our positions. But when there are issues that so concentrically represent the best interests of both labor and business, where what's good for one is really good for all, with respect to the matter of maintaining family wage jobs, economic activity and the ability for people to travel, then, it's appropriate. And I'm very proud to say we have several examples where business and labor have banded together and supported very staunchly worthwhile projects like the expansion of the airport.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. METCALF. Thank you. My next question will be for Gina Marie.
Before I say that, I just want to mention one comment about the process and the consensus. You know, it is true that we do not have consensus, but we have pretty overwhelming support by the local communities. We don't even have consensus on our Congressional delegation. It's 10 to 1, but we still don't have consensus, so, I think that that's something that we need to consider.
My question for Gina Marie, I'd like to have you comment on the improved navigational technologies and demand management techniques that opponents say will solve our air capacity problems.
Ms. LINDSEY. Essentially, the navigational aid improvements that are viable have already been instituted. The LDA that Dr. Hockaday was referring to addresses only the VFR-2 flight condition, which is about 20 percent of the time. And as someone mentioned earlier, I think Ed mentioned it would send airplanes over an area of Seattle that doesn't today have airplanes over it, specifically West Seattle. It will not help in IFR conditions, which is over 24 percent of the time. And essentially, it would not allow us to use one of our existing noise abatement procedures which is the Elliott Bay approach. So, it's not an answer, as far as we're concerned, and the experts in the field have also rejected that.
The demand management techniques that were suggested were indeed a specific assignment for the expert panel that has been adjudicating other options for us to take away the need for the runway. They specifically rejected demand management techniques as saying that they were simply not viable for the Seattle situation.
Mr. METCALF. Was that my time limit?
Mr. DUNCAN. Yes.
Mr. METCALF. Okay, thank you.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Metcalf. I guess we may have time for one more question, and I think Mr. Tate has one more question of this panel.
Mr. TATE. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Wallace, you're a member of Air Washington. Right?
Mr. WALLACE. I am.
Mr. TATE. A couple of questions. I just recently read a Seattle Times Op Ed by Mr. Judd, Mr. Thornton and Mr. Walker, all members of Air Washington. And in looking four paragraphs down, the last sentence says, ''There will be no tax increase to build this runway.'' If a passenger facility charge is passed, which is a $3 increase, and I live in Pierce County and I go on the plane out of Sea-Tac, is that a tax increase?
Mr. WALLACE. Well, I believe it would be called a fee. It's a user fee.
Mr. TATE. A fee. What would you call it in your business?
Mr. WALLACE. I'd call it a use charge, a charge for doing business.
Mr. TATE. So, it's not a tax.
Mr. WALLACE. Well, it isn't a property tax. It's a use tax.
Mr. TATE. This is what it says. ''There will be no tax increase to build this runway.'' The text says there will be no increaseno tax increaseto build this runway. And I showed a chart earlier from the old Master Plan that the options were passenger facility charges, landing fees, which is an indirect tax on people that fly out of there.
When something goes up where I live, that's called a tax increase. It doesn't matter what we call it, if it's more expensive and it's a new government fee, then, it's a tax increase. We can call it a fee, we can call it revenue enhancement, we can call it a contribution, but it's still a tax no matter what we call it.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If I may follow up, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Wallace, would you support the local voters having a referendum on any new taxes, since you say there is going to be no tax increaseor not you specifically, but Air Washingtonjust to assure that there are no tax increases and, if there are tax increases, that the voters get to approve those? Do you support a local referendum?
Mr. WALLACE. It's my understanding that in order to actually raise the authorized tax rate, the Port of Seattle would have to take that to the voters. I don't believe constitutionally they have the right to raise the tax rate. The reason that we're talking about the possibility of some additional revenue from the Port going into this bucket is because they simply have passed on the opportunity to appropriate what the voters have already authorized them to do.
Mr. TATE. This says that there will be no tax increase to build this runway, so I would hope that any tax of any sort by any name would go to a vote of the people. So, would you support that, then?
Mr. WALLACE. I wouldn't personally. And the reason I wouldn't is that I think there are some things that we call on government to do, in a representative form of government, where we simply expect them to make the hard decisions to study it carefully and then get on with it. We don't ask for a referendum on every decision that Congress makes. We elect respected people, like yourself, to go back and make those hard decisions and then implement the procedures and the projects, even though sometimes they're not popular and I wish we didn't have to spend the money. So, on some issues I think that it's appropriate for us to live within the constitutional limitations for taxation that we have, and I think that the business community would support it.
Mr. TATE. If I may close on this, I think the reason why Initiative 601 passed is because people didn't have faith in their government. And the reason why people of this community would like to have a voicethroughout King County, not just in this communityon the tax is because they've heard the great stories before about how taxes won't go up, there won't be a fee increase. Look at WPPSS. The list goes on and on an on where government has said one thing and done another. And I think the voters of this county need to know that if taxes are going to go up, especially when the group promoting it says, ''There will be no tax increases,'' they need to know as a backup to ensure that that's true, long after you're gone and I'm gone, that taxes won't go up unless they have a say on it. I think that's what this is all about.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. Chairman Clinger has one last brief question.
Mr. CLINGER. I just have a very brief question. Ms. Lindsey, on this obligation that you put out that shows the estimated cost for the new runway at about $405 million. And then there's a cost below that of over a billion dollars. How much of those below the line will you be incurring whether or not there is a new runway?
Ms. LINDSEY. All of them.
Mr. CLINGER. In other words, the billion dollars that is below the line there on your Master Pan, those projects you propose to go forward with, with or without the third runway.
Ms. LINDSEY. Correct. The issue is how efficiently we handle the traffic in all three of our sectors, the air side, the terminal side, and the ground side. Even if we don't handle it efficiently on the air side, we are intending to handle it efficiently on the terminal side and the ground side.
Mr. CLINGER. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right, thank you very much to this panel for your very helpful testimonyMr. Merlis, especially to you for coming all the way across the country to be here to testify today. Thank you very much.
We'll now hear once again from Panel Three, Kathy Parker, Bob Drewel and Jane Rees.
Since I have started the questioning on the last two panels, we'll go first this time to the ranking member, my good friend Mr. Cramer.
Mr. CRAMER. Mr. Drewel, let me start with you. In the last panel I asked about supporting the entire cost of the third runway and the AFE would only provide a certain part of that. A number of witnesses state that airline ticket prices could increase, or probably will increase, and airlines are normally very conservative and cautious about that, and they have to be extremely concerned about their pricing. However, the airlines, I believe, do support this third runway and say that they will support that if it's absolutely necessary. So, would you comment about that?
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DREWEL. Well, again, I'm not an economic expert on airline pricing, but my understanding is that there would be the support mechanism there, as others have testified to. I am aware that when the Regional Council was going through its exhaustive review that there were some conversations about the economics of a third runway versus the economics of a new airport. And, for a whole host of reasons, the answer for the investment that would be entailed in a new airport was not at all attractive to the airlines because of the costs that would come from that. But insofar as the third runway is concerned, my understanding is, at least, that that is a cost that they're willing to support.
Mr. CRAMER. And for Ms. Rees and Ms. Parker, I would like to hear both of you state your opinions about how this process could be more open, if you think it isn't, the process that's leading to this decision about a third runway.
Ms. REES. Yes. What I would like to say is that it has been surrounded by a public relations campaign that the taxpayers are paying for. I, myself, as a taxpayer, am paying for this public relations campaign. For example, when the Final EIS was released, we know that it did not answer the questions of many community councils, many individuals, a pile of concerns about the Draft EIS, and yet immediately with the release was a piece in the paper saying that there was no problem environmentally or any other way with this project. So as far as the citizens are concerned, you know yourself that citizens have a great deal of issues to deal with. They know what they read in the paper, generally. They have been sold a bill of goods about this. People are already saying that the decision
Mr. CRAMER. Well, there have been a number of public hearings, many other public hearings, in fact.
Ms. REES. Right. And, in fact, generally the public has been rolled over in those public hearings.
Mr. CRAMER. Ms. Parker?
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. PARKER. Mr. Cramer, I can only look back when I was Executive Director of RCAA and how that process did play out. And I'm not attacking the Puget Sound Regional Council itself, but a couple of really interesting things happened that tipped the scale in favor of, you might say, this process moving on.
There were several times when the third runway itself would have dropped completely off of the table through the efforts of a lot of well respected politicians in the area. And at those meetings various public relations firms and Port of Seattle staff came through and, by sheer votes, by one or two votes, overruled the process.
We were surprised in the process when Air Washington was a proponent of the business community, and we later found out that they indeed, in fact, were paid and hired by the Port of Seattle.
We were amazed when they came to siting issues. We all agree that we can use existing pavement on the ground, but we were well aware that there were possible sites, communities had come forward and said look at us outside of the four-county region, and the Port of Seattle, again through their lobbying efforts and a couple of very strong Port commissioners, dropped the outside-the-four-county-area out of the siting issue, channeled it back into the four-county area where it really isn't a good place to go ahead and build a brand new facility. So, all through the process when there were credible things happening, somehow, because of the muscle behind the Port, they were dropped off the table.
Most of us citizens will pay for something if it makes sense. And all I ask, if you folks and other folks would just look at the facts, what you get for your money. This is a huge mistake. And if anybody would look at the facts, they would not move ahead with this project.
Mr. CRAMER. Well, that's what we're trying to do. And it is also impressive that almost all of the other states' Congressional representatives support this project as well. Thank you.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. PARKER. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Cramer. I have just a couple of questions.
Mr. Drewel, I'm sure you heard Mr. Wallace say that he disagreed with the position of the Port Authority and he felt that at sometime in the near future that there was going to have to be a new airport or an expanded airport built north of Seattle. And since your county, I understand, is north of Seattle, and is that where Paine Field is?
Mr. DREWEL. It is indeed, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. DUNCAN. I assume that you disagree with that? Or would you agree with that?
Mr. DREWEL. I do not disagree at all with the premise that at some point in the future an airport will need to be built. Where it needs to be built, I would not venture a guess at that point. But I think what we're talking about specifically today is the studies have all indicated and the action that the Puget Sound Regional Council took was that based upon the information that we received, and over a lengthy time, 7 years, that it was discovered that the third runway would meet the demand needs of this region well into the next century, and the decision was based upon that.
Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Parker or Ms. Rees or both of you, let me ask you this. Air passenger traffic is predicted to go up from a little over 500 million a year now to maybe even as much as a billion a year 10 years from now. It's just going up everyplace. In most places around the country the people who live close to the airports fight very hard against any airport expansion, a new runway or a runway expansion project. But most of the other people in those areas see some expansion as a sign of progress. I'm wondering, in this situation there is very strong support for this third runway, there is very strong opposition to it. What do you think the future holds for Seattle if this third runway is not built?
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. PARKER. Chairman Duncan, I think the American people are very creative. I think you've heard some very good alternatives today, alternatives that have not been seriously considered. You've had experts testify to those. If the third runway were not built, I would utilize some of those other alternatives. You have GS. Dr. Hockaday can give you more information on what he would suggest. You have a lot of pavement on the ground. You have a lot of commuters at Sea-Tac Airport that can be moved to other airports. You have land banking for future generations. Given the chance with this pot of money and some creative thinking and some real community gathering on this, we can find answers that will work and that will be fiscally responsible. This one isn't.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. Ms. Rees, do you have anything you wish to add?
Ms. REES. Yes. I'd like to say I'm not from one of the airport communities, I represent the people in King County outside that area, and I want to say that we are looking at this project on its merits alone. A family doesn't go out and buy the most expensive car available which won't service them, maybe they can only take it out on Sundays, and it fills up the garage in the meantime. And it looks maybe like progress. People don't do that.
Our citizens, when they understand what this project is going to give them as compared with what it costs, are not going to support it. And that information has only been out recently. I, myself, have only had it recently.
Mr. DUNCAN. They don't buy a Mercedes when all they can afford is a Chevrolet or Ford.
Ms. REES. I'm not even talking about a Mercedes because that's a serviceable car.
Mr. DUNCAN. Okay. All right, thank you very much. Chairman Clinger?
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLINGER. Thank you very much. I want to thank this panel also for participating and for being with us all morning.
Obviously, there is a clear difference of opinion here. That has become pretty apparent over the course of the morning. I think there probably is a general agreement, however, that there is a need. There might be a disagreement as to when that need arises, but clearly I think there is agreement here there is a need to deal with what is going to be a need for greater capacity, that this is a growing area, it is a growth area, it's going to have growth pains and growth problems, and part of that is going to be air transportation. I think it's pretty clear to most of us that any community that doesn't have good air service, both passenger and cargo, is going to be left behind. Therefore, I think there might be something that everybody can agree on, that somehow this problem has to be addressed. I guess the big issue here is how is that done. I'm wondering if there is any way that there can be any reconciliation of the points of view here.
You've heard the concern raised about the cost and that this is excessive cost for what we're going to get out of the project. We've heard concerns about noise, and that obviously is a major concern for people living in the area. What would be your approach to say, okay, we know that by virtue of something that this Committee has done some time ago, airplanes are going to have to be quieter. They're being forced, somewhat grudgingly perhaps, but they're being forced to produce quieter aircraft or retrofit existing aircraft to make them quieter and by the year 2000 we're going to have a much quieter fleet of airplanes all over this country.
If that is a major concern and we approach that goal and achieve the quietness by that time, if we just defer going ahead with this project until such time as it was going to be quieter, would that address some of your concerns? I would address this mainly to Ms. Parker and Ms. Rees.
Ms. REES. Yes. What I'd like to say is that the thing we're studying today is not the noise issue, it's not the environmental issue, it's the cost issue. That is what
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLINGER. There have been people here who have talked about the noise issue as well. I think there are people that have an opposition to this for a variety of reasons.
Ms. REES. Then I guess what I have to say is I use my impressions of the group that is pushing this project through in the sense that they are not willing to listen to the people in talking about ways of being creative about solving these problems. It was brought up about the water side of the Port. It is the most subsidized water port in North America. There is a huge debt on the water side.
When they talk about these costs, they shift back and forth. Their credibility is very poor. You hear them saying that they're interested in the environment. You hear a man speaking for the Port, calling it a swamp when in fact the technical term would be different than that. The credibility is a great question. These people don't listen to talk about alternatives, they don't consider citizens' promise, they roll over them. And there is a tremendous boosterism involved in that, which includes the Congressional delegation. I'd just like to say I don't think that you should count that they're going to stay where they are because a lot of us are going to make big efforts to change that.
Mr. CLINGER. Ms. Parker?
Ms. PARKER. Mr. Clinger, I would really like to see Bob Drewel and my mayor and the Port of Seattle outside of the room and some real aviation experts sit down and give them $300 million and tell them we can't build the runway because it doesn't make sense. Tell me how you're going to fix this problem. We need growth. We know we can fix it. Americans always do. But go in the room and figure it out. I'd like those people to get together. I would like someone like Randy Tate or yourself in there helping them guide the decision. We could trust that. We can't trust the Port.
The Port told our parents something. They lied about that. The Port was never going to fulfill the second runway mitigation. The only reason they started that a few years ago is because RCAA banned together and said, ''You go take care of the little lady down there who can't sell her house.'' We don't trust them. But I trust you folks. I trust Randy Tate. I trust Bob Drewel. But get in a room and work it out with some real numbers and some real facts and with a set pot of gold.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLINGER. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Drewel, I believe you raised your hand. You had another comment you wanted to make?
Mr. DREWEL. Well, I just wanted to suggest if we're going to step outside can I argue venue?
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Mr. Hutchinson?
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Drewel, I was noticing one of the questions they handed me and I'm not asking this, I just want to refer to it. Do you think that instead of building the third runway that the Seattle area should just build a new airport? I thought when I came that that was kind of one of the big issues, that we've got this third runway, a $405 million price tag, plus everything else that's going to be involved, 17 million cubic yards of fill dirt, which I can't even imagine, and wetland mitigation and all of this, and it's this or build a new airport. Well, I thought I heard you say that you agree that somewhere down the line in the future there's going to be a new airport, that that ultimately is going to take place. Did I hear that correctly?
Mr. DREWEL. Mr. Hutchinson, you did. In the context of enjoying the growth of 1.1 million people.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. It seems to me that if that's going to happen, doesn't it make a whole lot more sense to defer building the third runway, that if that's going to happen, a new airport is going to be built, then some of these incremental steps that we've heard experts testify to, things that can be done to minimize the situation you face now, wouldn't it make more sense to do that or, as Ms. Parker said, take the $300 million and determine how you can best improve the current situation, recognizing that somewhere down the line that new airport is going to have to be built somewhere else.
Mr. DREWEL. In response to your question, Mr. Hutchinson, the new airport having to be built in the future is based upon the ability of the third runway to meet the demand that we'll have through that point in time. That's what shoves that out so far in the future.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. Okay. But if it's going to have to happen anyway, I mean, my experience in these kinds of projects, when you talk about $405 million and the kind of project you're talking about there's a good chance that there are going to be overruns, that it's going to end up costing a lot more than what's being projected. I frankly don't know whether there has ever been an airport expansion that involved 17 million cubic yards of fill dirt movement. I'd be interested if that's ever happened before. So, the potential for cost overruns or unexpected, unintended results in the process of this, would seem to be pretty high. That ought to give reason for real pause about moving ahead with that.
Mr. DREWEL. But if applying the same criteria to building a new airport, the same concerns would have to be in place as well, the infrastructure costs, how you would get the airlines to use it, the ground transportation that would be needed. And what we have the ability to do here in the Puget Sound region, and by good graces we have geographical placement that makes us the Gateway to the Pacific, the government has recognized that on a number of fronts, we are pleased to host the new Navy deployment that is in Snohomish County, and throughout Puget Sound there is a recognition that this is a gateway to the future. That gateway can only be met if we can continue to be competitive. And I'm often troubled by the sense that people who talk often about global competitiveness and preparing ourselves to be in the world economy and not recognize that we have to advance ourselves to be players at the table or we simply should not have a place at the table.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Are you absolutely convinced that from the standpoint of cost benefit analysis that the best investment of taxpayers' dollars is to build a third runway, as opposed to doing some of the more incremental changes that could help mitigate the current situation and the delays that people are experiencing, that you have no doubt in your mind that that is the best route to go?
Mr. DREWEL. I'm convinced beyond any doubt.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. Would you like to respond to that, Ms. Parker? Do you have any doubts?
Ms. PARKER. I can only say, Mr. Hutchinson, and I can just relate to my children when I give them their allowance, you get this much and only this much for this week. You folks have a set amount of money. And if we spend it on the third runway, which, if you give me a little time, I can show you some facts that might convince you it's unwarranted, it's not worth the cost, it's just not worth it. It's not worth it to build it, and you are spending money on the third runway when it should be spent on incremental approaches and a long-term solution so we can really be an economic machine to the Gateway to the Pacific.
Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Seastrand?
Ms. SEASTRAND. A question of Ms. Rees. Over the course of this morning we've heard there were some 25 hearings. Would you tell me what was the period of time those 25 hearings were held?
Ms. REES. Well, the whole project has been on the table, as I understand it, for about 7 years.
Ms. SEASTRAND. So, in other words, those 25 would be held over the last 7 years?
Ms. REES. Right.
Ms. SEASTRAND. Obviously here, looking at this room, overwhelming opposition. Could you say anything about those previous hearings? Were there hundreds of people that appeared, do you have any knowledge? Do you feel that the people were organized at that point to be opposed to the airport at the earlier stages?
Ms. REES. What I can tell you from a point of view I have come into the situation late is that it is always written up as the few people who are opposed to the third runway in the south end. I can show you newspaper after newspaper. Our major newspapers are buying into this boosterism scenario, not looking at what is really going on and not telling the people. So, what has mostly happened is that the people, like myself, who are now getting the facts and now getting involved were excluded, and the people who were there were rolled over.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. SEASTRAND. Thank you so much. I yield the remainder of my time to Mr. Tate.
Mr. TATE. Thank you, Congresswoman Seastrand.
First of all, I'd like to thank Ms. Rees for her efforts at the precinct caucuses. I think it shows her true nature, that this is a truly nonpartisan issue.
Ms. REES. I want you to know that those were Democratic precincts, and my own Democratic precinct passed the resolution. And I intend to take it to the county convention.
Mr. TATE. Good for you, and I would encourage the Republicans and Democrats both to do that. I just want to thank you for that. And that Resolution stated that no tax increases should be passed unless it's a vote of the people.
Ms. REES. Precisely.
Mr. TATE. I'd also like to thank Ms. Parker. Congratulations on being Citizen of the Year in Burien this past year.
Ms. PARKER. Thank you.
Mr. TATE. For those who didn't know, she was just selected Citizen of the Year in Burien this past year, so, congratulations.
I'd like to follow up on some comments you made in your opening testimony about promises made to your parents.
Ms. PARKER. Yes.
Mr. TATE. What was the promise?
Ms. PARKER. Basically, my grandparents settled here from the Russian Revolution. I'm a third-generation person, so I'm well aware of what was here many, many years ago, and I've seen what has happened through the years. And basically, after the Port of Seattle built the second runway, they told our parents, they said, ''We will never expand again.''
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TATE. Who is ''they''?
Ms. PARKER. The Port of Seattle. And, in fact they said, ''You can build right up to the fences because we will not do it again.''
Mr. TATE. All right, thank you.
Mr. Drewel, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to come down. You referenced the expert arbitration panel earlier. And I'm quoting from page 6 of the recent paper, Final Phase I, and it states that Sea-Tac is not currently a highly congested airport. I just wanted to make sure that that was in the record.
A couple of points that I'd like to make. You're from Snohomish County, and I appreciate once again your taking the time to come down. Recently, as of last spring, there was a ballot measure, RTA, Rapid Transit Authority, which the voters had an opportunity to vote on. It's my understanding that was overwhelmingly defeated in Snohomish County. Would you support that same kind of opportunity for the voters of King County to be able to vote on whether taxes be increased?
Mr. DREWEL. On the issue of the RTA, which, incidentally, I'm chairing that activity and we'll be working on a new plan in that regard, it will go back out to the vote in November because that is the mechanism for its approval.
Insofar as the Port is concerned, the Puget Sound Regional Council plays no role in the funding.
Mr. TATE. But would you personally support or publicly support the referendum to allow tax increases to go on the ballot, similar to what your voters in your county were able to do regarding RTA, and overwhelmingly defeat that?
Mr. DREWEL. I believe there was an earlier reaction to a question of this nature, that the Port had taxing ability that they had not used.
Mr. TATE. Right.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DREWEL. Would I, under those circumstances, with unauthorized taxing ability available? The answer would be no.
Mr. TATE. Okay. I mean, that's kind of loose with other people's money, so to speak, in King County, to be down here supporting the runway, but yet against the voters of this area to have the ability to determine whether their taxes go up, don't you think?
Mr. DREWEL. Well, in the last commissioner race for the Port of Seattle, three out of four of the commissioners that were reelected were overwhelmingly in support of the third runway, so, perhaps that's somewhat reflective.
Mr. TATE. Right. I just think that is the problem with government that we have today. It's easy to spend someone else's money. But when it's your own, I think, unfortunately in government, it's supposedly a partnership, but government is always a senior partner. And the public too often ends up being the silent partner, not by design, but the way the system is stacked against them. I would hope that when you're down here that you would encourage our voters to have that opportunity to determine their own future and to be able to vote on their own taxes.
I'd like to also follow up on the whole issue of the Colorado phenomenon at Denver. I think Dr. Hockaday talked about the phenomenon, that because it was so expensive at Denver, that landing fees became so expensive that those commuter flightsSouthwest Airlines or whatever, Reno Airthat provide affordable travel ended up going to other places. How do you explain to your constituents up in Snohomish County that phenomenon, when in the Port's own Master Plan they say that those fees are going to go up, which could have unintended consequences, that it ends up in your back yard?
Mr. DREWEL. Well, I am not familiar with the dynamics surrounding the Denver Airport situation. But if the question is did a decision drive the cost of landing to the point where airlines made other suggestions, I am somewhat familiar with that because there have been failed starts, three or four that I can call to memory, at Paine Field who believed that they could get into the commuter business and be competitive with the services that are offered by Sea-Tac, and they are no longer in business. So, that's the closest I can come with trying to compare what fees are, what the facilities are that are made available, how they address their passengers after they land, and beyond that, sir, I'm not a very good source for input.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TATE. So, it is within the realm of possibility, then, that that could occur, based on the earlier testimony by Dr. Hockaday that your support of the runway at Sea-Tac could actually give you a runway expansion and/or use of Paine Field in Snohomish County, which you oppose.
Mr. DREWEL. No, I wouldn't agree with that at all.
Mr. TATE. But it is possible that in business, if it becomes too expensive to do business here and you want to continue business somewhere else, you go somewhere else.
Mr. DREWEL. I'm sure that should be in everyone's criteria package.
Mr. TATE. It's definitely a possibility.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Tate. Mr. Metcalf?
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My first question is for the representative from the Washington Alliance for Taxpayers and Travelers. I heard the ads. Mainly, they seem to concern trucks. But were those ads or was your organization subsidized in any way by taxpayers from the surrounding communities?
Ms. REES. The ad campaign was planned by the airport communities.
Mr. TATE. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. METCALF. Yes.
Mr. TATE. Is the gentleman aware that in 1993 the Seattle Port paid Air Washington for promotion, which is taxpayer
Mr. METCALF. That has nothing to do with my question, Congressman. I asked her if that organization was subsidized by the local community.
Ms. REES. Well, this is not a court of law, so I can add my own comment to my answer.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. METCALF. Certainly. But was it or wasn't it?
Ms. REES. It was. I told you that it was, but I have some additional comments.
Mr. METCALF. Sure, go ahead.
Ms. REES. First of all, they have every right to spend their money to do that if they want. But I'm here to tell you that I am a private person, a part of this organization, and that I am not paid by anyone, that I am in full agreement with the kinds of advertisements that went out, and I want you to know that we will continue working. This is an alliance which is just beginning, but it's not ending.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you. My next question is to Mr. Drewel. You were deeply involved with this process all the way through. And we're still hearing that people were excluded and not all the options were explored after 7 years. It was said here today, and I would like to have you comment on that and the process.
Mr. DREWEL. Well, that's the one bit of testimony that I've heard this morning that I suspect is the most troublesome. I can recall a number of public meetings that were, in one case, I think, attended by a thousand people or more. That people have come late to the process, I can't account for that. And maybe we're mixing two processes. The process that led up to the Puget Sound Regional Council was a general assembly meeting, two executive board meetings, a host of public meetings, and I do not recall one occasion where debate was cut off when people simply didn't have a chance to speak their mind. There were time limitations, of course, but they were long meetings and the debate was vigorous and meaningful.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you. I would just like to make one comment to my colleagues here. We've been on this for 7 years. Eventually, you have to come to closure. And I would ask you to help us comply with the local decisions and finally come to a closure on this very divisive issue.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My last question then is for Mr. Drewel. When the issue went before the council, it asked that sites for satellite airports be studied. It also talked about or asked to study the high-speed rail, that to be examined. When the report came back, the expansion of Sea-Tac was still regarded as the most cost-effective and environmentally sound alternative. Do you have any comment on that? Do you have any further information?
Mr. DREWEL. Yes, very briefly. There was a suggestion that we look outside of the four-county area at a possible location. That was not ignored. We simply don't have the authority to make that type of examination.
Secondly, there was an exhaustive review of alternative sites. The expert panel, this is the independent arbitration board appointed by Secretary Morrison, said flat-footedly that the alternative sites were not feasible and the Puget Sound Regional Council took that into consideration on their vote.
Mr. METCALF. Okay, thank you very much. And I would just close by reiterating we've been on this for a long time. I guess we could spend another year, another 7 years and another ''X'' number of millions of dollars, but we really need to come to closure on this issue. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. One of the many jobs of our Subcommittee this year is the reauthorization of the Airport Improvement Program. We've now had four days of hearings in Washington, D.C. We have one more day scheduled for hearing on that program, and this hearing today has been added to that.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a two-step process, the authorization process and the appropriation process. As I mentioned earlier, in this day and age with tight budgets and fiscal restraints, very few projects that are not authorized are funded, although that does happen at times and could happen in this situation.
This Subcommittee, just to explain briefly to you, when we reauthorize the Airport Improvement Program, we have several alternatives. We could add language to that legislation to direct that the FAA give this third runway project top priority and authorize them to go ahead with it. We could add language to it to instruct them specifically not to go forward with this runway. Or we could, as we generally do, leave most of these decisions up to the FAA. After the Subcommittee takes whatever action it does, whether specific language regarding this project is added to that legislation or not, the Appropriations Committee does have the option to take action itself, which is a possibility. And so there are several things that could happen. But we will be following this issue closely, we will continue to work on it in Washington.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I apologize once again to the people who did not get to testify, and I can assure you that we will go over your statements with a fine tooth comb, if you wish to submit them. But I think we've had a good hearing here this morning. We've tried to conduct it as fairly as possible and move it along within our time constraints.
I appreciate the fact that so many of you have come out and have been so attentive, and particularly I appreciate the hard work that's been done by the witnesses who have been willing to come here and testify and answer questions today. I thank the members of the Subcommittee. Many have come a very long distance to be here with us, and Mr. Metcalf is not a member of the Subcommittee, so I was not trying to be unfair to him by going to him last, but I should especially say thanks to him since he is not a member of our Subcommittee.
I want to just close by saying thank you to everybody, but particularly to Mr. Tate for requesting this hearing and inviting us out, and I would like to go for a closing statement at this time, very briefly, to Mr. Tate.
Mr. TATE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to thank you for your even-handedness during this debate, that you've given all sides an opportunity to state their piece, and I just think you should be commended. I thank my colleague from Washington State, Mr. Metcalf, Mr. White, Mr. Cramer from Alabama, Mr. Clinger from Pennsylvania, Mr. Hutchinson from Arkansas, and Ms. Seastrand from California. I appreciate it. They took time out of their busy schedules and away from their families to come out here, and I really appreciate that.
I also want to thank the citizens for taking the time. Whether we agreed or disagreed on the issues, you took the time to get involved in what's going on, and that's how government works best.
Just to reiterate, Mr. Chairman, if it hasn't been completely clear already, this will be the most expensive runway in the history of this country. And because the Port won't rule it out as an option, I have to assume that it is an option to raise property taxes to fund this project. I believe very strongly in the spirit of Washington State and we believe very strongly in the initiative process in this state.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Whether you're for or against a particular issue, it should go to a vote of the people to decide if their taxes are going to be raised. The voters of this state have been disaffected by what's gone on in the past with WPPSS. We are all very familiar. There may be even some people in this room who still feel that.
This is truly, in closing, Mr. Chairman, a poster child of a national problem here, Sea-Tac. We've got to end these back-door deals regarding the Airport Improvement Fund, just as we've done in transportation projects. We now have a criteria to determine which ones we're going to fund. There needs to be cost benefit analysis. That needs to apply as well to the money spent here for the third runway.
I see this as an opportunity to reform the system and really ensure that the hard earned tax dollars of the people in this room and around this country are spent wisely. And I want to thank you for allowing me the chance to state my piece and your even-handedness today. Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. Thank you very much, and that concludes this hearing.
[Whereupon, at 11:45 a.m., the Subcommittee was recessed, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]