ECONOMY DALLAS ECONOMY TURNS AROUND

After heading north for so many years, new development in the Dallas area seems to be taking a turn southward. The Superconducting Super Collider was awarded to a site near Waxahachie. and now it looks as if a new regional airport may be built south of Dallas to relieve the crowded skies of the Metroplex.

In November, the City Council awarded a contract to the North Central Texas Council of Governments to do a study to prove that this area badly needs a new airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has already estimated that by 2010 the airspace around Dallas will be seriously overloaded-an estimate made before the SSC announcement. “We probably wouldn’t recommend a site within forty to fifty miles of D/FW [Airport].” says Julie Dumbar, senior transportation planner for NCTCOG, “you just can’t get that many planes in that airspace.” Council member Jerry Bartos says that the new airport will probably be located to the south, near the new Super Collider site in Ellis County.

But as with the SSC, funding to build the airport is in the rarefied airspace of national politics. The FAA has a huge ($11 billion) Aviation Trust Fund that is supported by an 8 percent surcharge on airline passenger tickets and other aviation taxes. “The problem,” says Gene Faulkner, manager of airport planning for the FAA’s southwest region, “is [hat we don’t have access to those funds.” The fund has become a political tool used to prop up the asset side of the budget equation in Washington, and Congress is reluctant to appropriate that money to build new airports. And although the FAA can afford to pay up to 90 percent of airport long-range planning, as it will do in the NCTCOG study, “the funding is woefully low.” says Faulkner, when it comes to actually building a new airport. Bartos believes that the best way to lobby Congress for these funds is to come armed with a study proving the need for them. “Unlike we were with DART,” says Bartos, “I’d like to see us in line for these federal funds.”

Meanwhile, developers, businessmen, and politicians in Dallas are looking south of Dallas for the first time in a great while. “If we could put this in place by 1997 or ’98,” says Bartos, “I think it would be perfectly timed to spur our future in aviation and technology and to move way ahead of the pack.”

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