Construction on the new terminal at Paine Field. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Construction on the new terminal at Paine Field. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

New FAA report could clear the way for 2019 airline service

A revised environmental assessment found no new significant issues arising from Paine Field flights.

EVERETT — A revised federal environmental assessment seems likely to clear the way for passenger service in Everett early next year, though there are a few more steps before three airlines can begin using a new terminal at Paine Field.

The draft Federal Aviation Administration report released Saturday cites no significant issues that need to be addressed.

Known as a supplemental environmental assessment, the study evaluated the effect of up to 24 flights per day at the Snohomish County-owned airport. An expired 2012 assessment reached a similar conclusion, but it gauged the impact of fewer airlines and only 12 flights per day.

Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have proposed a combined 24 flights per day to cities throughout the West. They’ll be using quieter, more advanced airplanes than those evaluated in 2012.

The public has until Nov. 2 to comment on the draft report, which is posted on the Paine Field website. After public comment, the FAA will issue a written decision ratifying the report’s findings or requiring more scrutiny.

Paine Field officials are reviewing the report but are “referring all questions to the FAA,” airport spokesman Scott North said.

Everett-based Propeller Airports, under a lease agreement with Snohomish County, is nearing completion of a two-gate terminal on the east side of the airport, adjacent to the control tower. The 30,000-square-foot terminal is expected to be finished next month, said Propeller CEO Brett Smith.

Smith said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the new report or the FAA approval process. The company has invested some $40 million in developing the terminal.

Kent Patton, a spokesman for Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, also declined to comment but said county officials encourage public input. “We look forward to watching the FAA process,” he said.

City officials are “eager to see commercial air service get underway, and look forward to the new investors and family-wage jobs it will attract,” said Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin. “The FAA study is an important final step in the process and we hope that its conclusion is imminent,” she said Saturday.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The updated report includes the proposed routes of the three airlines. As previously announced, Alaska Airlines plans 13 departures per day to eight destinations, and United Airlines plans six daily flights to two destinations. Those carriers plan to use 76-seat Embraer 175 airplanes.

Southwest Airlines, which announced service in January, hasn’t publicly disclosed plans. But according to the FAA document, the airline expects to serve Oakland with three daily flights and Las Vegas with two. Southwest plans to use 143-seat Boeing 737-700s.

In the past, there has been community opposition to passenger service at Paine Field, with increased traffic and noise being the most prevalent concerns.

The updated FAA report estimates that airline service would generate about 2,185 daily vehicle trips. That’s 1,229 more than forecast by the 2012 environmental assessment. Traffic volume is expected to rise slightly, to 2,212 daily vehicle trips in 2024.

The study notes, however, that travel on Snohomish County’s main roads isn’t likely to be significantly affected. Several intersections might become overburdened by additional traffic, but the report indicates that increased volume in those locations would occur even without commercial airline service.

The revised study also cites the need for about 424 more parking spaces. That issue appears to have been addressed. This past summer, Propeller Airports requested additional airport space to accommodate more parking. The Snohomish County Council recently approved the company’s request.

Under a revised contract, the project’s footprint will increase by more than 40 percent, from 11 to 15 acres. That’s enough room to for 1,100 vehicle spaces, up from 574 parking spaces described in earlier plans, Propeller CEO Smith has said.

More takeoffs would cause “minor noise impacts” but wouldn’t affect noise-sensitive sites, the report says. It’s doubtful commercial service would “lead to significant cumulative noise impacts,” the draft document said.

Other categories in which no significant impacts were found include air quality, wetlands, surface water and “environmental health or safety risks to children.” Operations would “not substantially change traffic patterns or noise levels that would affect residences, businesses or schools in the vicinity of the airport,” the report said.

A handful of tasks remain to satisfy the FAA, including standard operating agreements with the three airlines and an amendment to the airport’s operating certificate to allow for commercial service, even though Paine Field was originally planned as a commercial airport.

The FAA requires that airports built using federal money allow for commercial air service. Paine was built in 1936 with federal money as part of the Works Progress Administration.

The FAA plans an information workshop and public hearing for Oct. 29 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW in Lynnwood.

Participants will be able to speak with the study team from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and comment on it from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Comments can also be mailed to the company that prepared the report for the FAA. Send them to Environmental Science Associates; Paine Field Supplemental EA; 5309 Shilshole Ave. NW, Suite 200; Seattle, WA 98107.

The draft environmental assessment can also be viewed at the Paine Field administrative office and the public libraries in Everett, Mukilteo and Lynnwood.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097.

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