Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lambert Expansion Plan Advances Proposal Would Tear Down about a Third of Bridgeton

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lambert Expansion Plan Advances Proposal Would Tear Down about a Third of Bridgeton

Article excerpt

Lambert Field's Airport Commission approved a $1.876 billion expansion plan Wednesday to add a third parallel runway and raze a third of Bridgeton.

The commission voted 9-1 to send the plan in January to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval. The plan is now estimated to cost $116 million more than planners first thought.

The airport would not disclose maps showing exact streets and homes that would be bought out. Those will be made available at a public workshop from 4 to 8 p.m. tonight at the airport's planning and development office, 4610 Lindbergh Boulevard in Bridgeton.

Chris Orman, a consultant from Leigh Fisher Associates who proposed the airport's plan, told the airport commissioners that the price tag went up as the plan became more specific and actual costs were assessed.

The increased price tag will more than double the cost to airlines, and thus increase the cost to passengers, to land at the airport. The airlines' cost per passenger after expansion will be $10.49, up from $4.66.

That jump in cost will put Lambert in the second-highest category (between $10 and $15 per passenger) along with airports like O'Hare in Chicago, Dulles in Washington and LaGuardia in New York. Newark, Denver and Kennedy in New York have the highest cost, at $15 or more.

Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers, who adamantly opposes the plan, warned that the increased costs could make Lambert unable to compete for airlines.

Lambert officials say the airport needs a new runway and more terminal space because passenger traffic is expected to increase to 42 million in 2015 from about 28 million this year. Delays at Lambert cost the airlines about $40 million a year.

"That's what kills the airlines in the competitive market," said Airports Director Leonard Griggs.

Yet, the airport's latest figures show that the expansion will not improve delays as much as first thought. The new figures say the average delays would be about 4.7 minutes. The original projection said 3 minutes. The average delay today is about 6.

TWA spokesman John McDonald said the airline, the main carrier at Lambert, supports the westward expansion into Bridgeton. He said if the airport does nothing, TWA estimates delay costs to escalate to $150 million a year for the airline by 2005. …

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