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Sacramento International Airport

    On September 2, 1998, the 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury toured Sacramento International Airport (the Airport).

    Background

    Our Airport is the regional air transportation hub in its fullest sense. As such, completion of the current expansion plan is necessary to answer the immediate capacity demands created by recent anticipated and extraordinary growth in regional air travel. The Airport now serves more than 7 million passengers a year, more than double its initial design capacity. The modernized facilities and increased growth in the regional service area portend its further expansion to serve an estimated 15 to 20 million passengers per year.

    The Sacramento County Department of Airports' (SCDOA) capital improvement program, totaling approximately $270 million, is designed to meet these needs. The County's foresight in locating the Airport on 6,000 acres and placing it under the sole control of the SCDOA provided it a unique ability to respond to these demands. The new Terminal A building, surface transportation and parking flexibility, the recently completed parallel east runway and ancillary taxiways and aprons provide the Airport with take-off and landing capacities twice that of San Francisco International Airport.

    The Airport is wholly self-supporting through various user fees and rentals. The SCDOA does not require any local, state or federal tax funds for operating costs. All revenues must be used for SCDOA activities only.

    With a current annual income of approximately $60 million, $55 million is spent on Airport operations with the remainder utilized for SCDOA capital improvements. Recent renegotiation of the interest rates on current bonded indebtedness has resulted in savings of approximately $500,000 per year. Some of the income from International's operations has been used to improve the capital assets at Mather Industrial Park and Airport and enhancements to other airports. lnternational's ability to support the airfields' activities and improvements has enabled the SCDOA to encourage the relocation of some air-freight operations to Mather.

    Observations

    There is a divergence of opinion by Airport personnel about the need for the installation and utilization of ground surveillance radar (Airport Surveillance Detection Equipment, or ASDE). Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) staff are directly responsible for the safety of both airborne and ground operations of aircraft and the equipment needed to assure maximum safety of the flying public. FAA personnel stated ASDE is a crucial component of radar operations at the Airport.

    Airport staff do not concur in the need for ASDE. Instead, an Airport vehicle is parked on a taxiway intersection to prevent taxiing aircraft from entering onto the active runway during dense fog conditions. Airport personnel noted that painted color-coded circular spots will also be placed on the pavement surface so the pilots would not have to rely solely on existing Airport directional signage. They also opined that airborne aircraft were adequately handled by Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), a regional FAA aircraft control system.

    The current system of aircraft fuel transport to International, by tanker trucks, could pose a problem. The anticipated growth in air traffic will occasion an attendant increase in the number and frequency of tanker deliveries. This increase in tanker traffic will increase traffic hazards, degrade the environment, and adversely impact operational costs.

    Findings

    Finding #1: Both SCDOA and the local FAA staff would benefit from an annual joint planning process that provides a framework for joint goals and objectives.

    Finding #2: Aircraft fuel pipelines would reduce the need for daily service by more than 20 tanker transports.

    Update to the Report

    According to a local newspaper article in February 1999, the airlines in the old Terminal B building want to move into the new Terminal A building now that the County has completed Terminal A initial construction phase. The SCDOA plans to remodel Terminal B; the airlines currently in Terminal B will remain there for another few years until passenger demand grows enough to justify expansion of Terminal A. The airlines currently in Terminal B originally rejected the opportunity to move to Terminal A because they considered their related costs to be unnecessary and determined Terminal B's rehabilitation would meet their needs.

    Now, according to the newspaper article, the airlines want the County to change plans to accommodate their wishes to go to Terminal A. The newspaper article reported the costs for rehabilitation of Terminal B are less than the costs for expansion of Terminal A.

    The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors decided, in April 1999, to delay a decision on this matter until the SCDOA can complete a feasibility study. The latest information from the SCDOA in late May is that both the study and the decision had been delayed further.

    No Response is Required.

1998/99 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 1999

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