Airport Site Selection
The emphasis in airport planning is normally on the expansion and improvement of existing airports. However if an existing airport cannot be expanded to meet the future demand or the need for a new airport is identified in an airport system plan, a process to select a new airport site may be required. The scope of the site selection process will vary with size, complexity, and role of the new airport, but there are basically three steps-identification, screening, and selection.
Identification-criteria is developed that will be used to evaluate different sites and determine if a site can function as an airport and meets the needs of the community and users. One criterion will be to identify the land area and basic facility requirements for the new airport. Part of this analysis will be a definition of airport roles if more than two airports serve the region. Other criteria might be that sites are within a certain radius or distance from the existing airport or community, or that sites should be relatively flat. Several potential sites that meet the criteria are identified. Screening-once sites are identifi ed, a screening process can be applied to each site. An evaluation of all potential sites that meet the initial criteria should be conducted, screening out those with the most obvious shortcomings. Screening factors might include topography, natural and man-made obstructions, airspace, access, environmental impacts, and development costs. If any sites are eliminated from further consideration, thorough documentation of the reasons for that decision is recommended. The remaining potential sites should then undergo a detailed comparison using comprehensive evaluation criteria. While the criteria will vary, the following is typically considered:
Operational capability-airspace considerations, obstructions, weather
Capacity potential-available land, suitability for construction, Weather
Ground access-distance from the demand for aviation services, regional highway infrastructure, available public transportation modes
Development costs-terrain, land costs, land values, soil conditions, availability of utilities
Environmental consequences-aircraft noise, air quality, groundwater runoff, impact on fl ora and fauna, existence of endangered species or cultural artifacts, historical features, changes in local land use, relocation of families and businesses, changes in socioeconomic characteristics
Compatibility with area-wide planning-impact on land use, effect on comprehensive land -use plans and transportation plans at the local and regional levels
Selection-the fi nal step is selecting and recommending a preferred site. While a weighting of the evaluation criteria and weighted ratings or ranking of the alternative sites is often used in selecting a site, caution must be used in applying this technique since it introduces an element of sensitivity into the analysis. The process should focus on providing decision makers with information on the various sites in a manner that is understandable and unbiased.