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Preliminary Study Unveils Five Sites To Move Isla Grande Airport Operations


November 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Preliminary conclusions and recommendations in response to the government’s possible actions to relocate existing operations of Isla Grande’s Fernando Luis Rivas Dominicci Airport point to five possibilities.

Three possibilities are relocating to an existing regional airport in Humacao, Fajardo, or Arecibo. Isla Grande airport’s operations could be moved to a new airport in the vicinity of San Juan. Or its fixed-wing air taxi and charter operations could incorporate into the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport.

Earlier this year, Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Miguel Pereira hired PBS&J consulting firm to prepare an economic impact assessment study of the Isla Grande airport, which was completed on Oct. 21.

The purpose of the study was to assess the current land use of the Isla Grande airport’s economic viability. The study has also provided suggestions regarding the Ports Authority role in the future demands of the aviation industry, the growth of the ports, and the tourism industry’s Golden Triangle Master Plan.

Pereira told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS during his first in-depth interview after being appointed to his post (CB March 21), that he views the runway at Isla Grande "as a road that leads to nowhere."

"I have an obligation to study the best use for the land and it would be irresponsible of me not to do so,’ Pereira said.

Although it is estimated that the government would have to invest some $85 million in direct and indirect revenue to remove the existing airport operation, and that this would affect close to 2,500 people, the sale of the land could generate $2.5 million per acre. These estimates do not take into account taxes, employment growth, consumer spending, and other indirect revenue that can be generated on the 123 acres currently occupied by the airport.

Pereira said the governor would have the final say in the outcome of Isla Grande’s airport operations. He added that the Ports Authority plans to honor existing contracts with companies currently at the facility, but that he does not plan to renew contracts past 2004, when the last contract expires at the airport.

According to the study, growth in port and marine operations in Puerto Rico throughout the years has eliminated available land for airport expansion. It also stated that available land from the former naval base in Isla Grande has been entirely allocated to the development of the new Convention Center, which means the residential and commercial portion of the Golden Triangle project has turned the balance against the airport.

The Golden Triangle plan identifies specific areas surrounding Isla Grande—the San Antonio development in the northwest, the Condado development in the northeast, and the convention center in the southeast. The Golden Triangle also incorporates a number of new facilities including a large convention center and commercial & residential developments, while trying to integrate the existing port and airport operations.

In short, the study concluded that only three of the four land uses identified by the Golden Triangle master plan could be feasibly accommodated. Therefore, the solution to the problem is to relocate one land use component from the Isla Grande area.

The study identified the development of the San Antonio waterfront area as a necessity to increase the amount of tourist-oriented and commercial & residential facilities located in the San Juan area. The existing port facilities in the San Antonio waterfront handle construction goods and materials, which is essential to the success of the island’s economy.

Phase one of the Golden Triangle development requires that the existing port storage in the San Antonio waterfront be temporarily relocated to a designated area northeast of the Isla Grande airport. As a result, this will directly affect operations at Isla Grande hangars, and aircraft parking on the north side of the airport will be impacted.

The second phase, which initiates construction of the Convention Center, and phase three, which relocates the San Antonio port operations to expanded port operations located to the south of the airport, will also directly affect operations at Isla Grande as hangars and aircraft parking on the west side of the airport are impacted once again.

Another factor impacting the airport, the study revealed, is the lack of planning for Isla Grande airport’s growth. Over the years, the airport operation at Isla Grande has grown from an exclusively small aircraft facility to an airport that accommodates business jets and multi-engine aircraft. As a result, large aircraft are operating under small aircraft safety requirements, not complying with Federal Aviation Administration standards.

The existing operation currently lacks the facilities necessary to accommodate the desired fleet mix as well as the future forecasted demand aircraft. Due to these factors, PBS&J recommends that it would be the in the best interest of Puerto Rico and its economy to relocate operations at Isla Grande airport to another airport in another locations that can better serve, grow, and operate.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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