Regional airports eyed to ease clogs

With plans to add a runway at San Francisco International Airport all but dead, transportation experts are studying whether new radar technology and moves to shift regional flights to smaller airports can accommodate future growth in air traffic.

The study, launched last week by a subcommittee of the Regional Airport Planning Committee, will look at whether new technology and added capacity at airports in locales such as Stockton, Monterey and the North Bay could help reduce congestion at the Bay Area’s three major airports: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

While air passenger levels have not returned to levels seen before Sept. 11, 2001, they continue to inch their way back up, officials said.

“In the long run, when demand gets back to where it was in 2000, and beyond, [the changes proposed in the study] will mean better on-time performance and fewer delays for passengers,” Doug Kimsey of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said.

The Regional Airport Planning Committee has approved $365,000 for the first part of a three-phase study. Another $500,000 has been earmarked for a second phase, according to Lindy Lowe, of the Development District.

Phase two of the study, anticipated to begin in about a year, will focus on the prospect for high-speed rail to have an impact on travel patterns, as well as what might be done to shift small airplane traffic and cargo carriers to regional airports, Lowe said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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