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Aired 4/19/09

Former State Senator Steve Peace says his vision for the airport and an intermodal transit center is a composite of visions many people have had before him. But his call to action at the Feb. 8 joint meeting of San Diego mayors ( SANDAG ) and the Airport Authority was striking (listen to audio above).

For months the Airport Authority has been holding public meetings about its master plan, challenging the community to say "OK, we like this," or "No, we don't want this." And for months it seemed there was little public reaction to the plan. Perhaps San Diegans are just relieved that the whole debate over whether to move the airport to Miramar was finally laid to rest last year. Perhaps they want no more to do with airport questions.

But the way the Airport Authority expands Lindbergh Field will affect San Diego at its core. The proposal would build a multiple story concrete parking lot on Harbor Drive and expand Harbor Drive to perhaps 10 lanes to accommodate people arriving to catch flights. What will that do to the Bayfront that is San Diego's crown jewel?

Finally, the mayor of San Diego has weighed in on the airport debate, and perhaps just in time. Steve Peace was able to roll out his ideas before a room full of all the mayors of cities around San Diego. The vision he started pushing last year may seem far-fetched; it would shift the front door of the airport round to the other side, the north side, next to Interstate 5.

But everyone in that room agreed the airport needs to be put into a larger picture of transportation around San Diego. It needs to become part of a hub with public transport helping to bring passengers to and from the terminals. Otherwise, it becomes the elephant on the waterfront, generating more and more gridlock in the surrounding city and filling some of best real estate in San Diego with parking lots and on-ramps.

Turning the airport around to face inland would take a huge shift in planning and land use. Even the Port District Headquarters would probably disappear to make way for a new off-ramp from Interstate 5! It will be a Herculean task to make this happen, but at least the region's political leaders have agreed to cooperate and start pushing for it.

The question is, can they get things moving soon enough?

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