Master Plan For Regional Airport Taking Flight

Clarksburg Exponent Telegram

by Nora Edinger, Regional Editor

BRIDGEPORT (Wednesday, December 19, 2001)

Keeping a clear path for future development dominated initial discussion on a new Harrison-Marion Regional Airport master plan Tuesday.

The possible expansion of the airport's main runway to 1,000 feet was of particular concern. That would allow larger jets such as those used for cargo shipping to land and take off, but could affect both flight paths and ground space needs.

"What would the potential be for a FedEx, UPS or mail center locating here?" authority President Roger Diaz asked representatives of three engineering/planning firms working on the project.

Scott Sanders, a representative of subcontractor Wilbur Smith Associates of Cincinnati, Ohio, said such development usually follows one of two paths. Regional growth sparks a siting or a political champion snares a project.

"Most of what drives (such projects is) trucking. How fast can the products get out?" Sanders said.

Chad Biller, plan coordinator for contractor Thrasher Engineering of Clarksburg, said Harrison-Marion has an advantage in its good highway access. 

Lawrence Brandstetter, president of subcontractor Brandstetter Carroll Inc. of Cincinnati, said the authority needs to build connections with multiple layers of government to reach such goals.

Air space issues were also discussed.

Joe Timms, mayor of Bridgeport, said the plan should include advice on how to prevent cell tower sitings that could obstruct flight.

Brandstetter suggested the board work with legislators now to develop a statewide plan that would affect just the land around airports.

The state has no cell tower siting rules, although some municipalities have enacted ordinances.

The engineers said such laws are needed to completely stop the construction of even problem towers, although the Federal Aviation Administration does review those that could be flight hazards.

Other discussion included:

* land-transfer talks going on between the authority and the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex, a federally funded organization that markets the airport. The authority is considering transferring the airport's industrial park to MAAC control and keeping only the airport proper.

* bringing a railroad spur into the airport's industrial park.

* moving the airport's U.S. 50 access point away from the West Virginia 131/Airport Road area to a location farther east.

* a new terminal building.

* future residential development around the airport and potential noise complaints.