The Columbia City Council at its 5/21/2007 meeting voted unanimously to acquire 61 acres of land adjacent to the Columbia Regional Airport for expanding runways. They authorized spending up to $300,000.00 for three parcels of land. The city will be reimbursed for 95% of the cost by the Federal Aviation Administration resulting in a net expense of $15,000.00 for the city. Use of eminent domain to acquire the land if the city can't come to terms with the property owners was authorized.
The three property owners spoke before the council. Their main points were that:
- The city did not inform the property owners about this pending action.
- The property owners have plans to develop their property.
- If the city takes the property it would increase their costs to develop it
- Concern that they will not receive just compensation for the value of their property.
- Finally, that they were not interested in selling.
This is the first step for implementing the 2002 Airport Master Plan. A quick review of the master plan and recent news reports tell the story of a failing airport.
- Ailing airport wants new name
- City strengthens plan to acquire airport land - Eminent domain a possible avenue
The entire airport expansion plan will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Only 5% of that will come from the city with 95% coming from the Federal Aviation Administration. Regardless of who pays, it is all our tax dollars and our airline user fees.
Here are some graphs showing the historical airport usage and projected use from 2000 through 2020. I took the liberty of plotting actual usage on the projected usage graph.
Only government could justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a major airport expansion for an airport which is clearly failing!
Of course government bureaucrats and elected officials answer for any failed government program or project is to just spend more money.
Here are my public comments regarding airport expansion at the 5/21/2007 Columbia City Council Meeting:
I am speaking in opposition to the acquisition of additional land to support future airport expansion. I have flown out of our airport just once. My return flight was delayed for hours. I sat there thinking to myself that I could be home now if I had just driven to St. Louis. On my return, I found my luggage stained with hydraulic fluid. That was eight years ago. Since then I have used the private airport shuttle service or driven myself. This is an example of how the free market provides better service to air travelers -- at a profit -- than the heavily subsidized commuter airline paid for with my tax dollars. According to newspaper reports, this land acquisition is part of the 2003 airport master plan -- which is anticipating additional needs through 2020. According to historical data in the master plan, general aviation and cargo have been relatively flat. Commercial boardings have been in a steady decline since their peak in 1978 of 67,588. In 2006, boardings reached an all time low of 13,673. A May 12th Columbia Daily Tribune story predicts that boardings this year may not reach 10,000. Yet the master plan projects over 70,000 boardings for this year. The master plan projections are completely disconnected from historic usage trends. How can this performance justify expanding the airport at this time, especially through the property-seizing power of eminent domain? Thank You