ARLINGTON — The state Department of Transportation plans to relocate its aviation division by the end of the month.
WSDOT Aviation has been headquartered in Arlington for about 12 years, the past five at Arlington Municipal Airport.
The office is moving to Olympia Regional Airport to save money and be closer to other state offices, said Nisha Marvel, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
WSDOT Aviation moved to Arlington from Seattle’s Boeing Field in 2002, seeking lower costs and a location that was closer to aviation events and expertise.
“Arlington has a great general aviation community,” Marvel said. “After being here for a while, we just saw the opportunity to move to Olympia and be closer to other offices.”
The state’s lease with the city of Arlington ends Sept. 30. The department began looking at other locations several years ago under a mandate from the state secretary of transportation to cut costs, according to a 2011 report. Officials considered four options for the aviation headquarters: stay in Arlington, move to Olympia, return to King County or split the office between Arlington and Olympia. The King County and split-offices options were quickly ruled out, based on price and space needs.
A state study evaluated the remaining choices, and Olympia edged out Arlington. Olympia ranked higher on long-term savings, future staff recruitment and coordination with other state offices. Arlington was rated better for short-term savings, employee retention and the quality of office, storage and parking space.
The state Aviation Division will lease 4,596 square feet at the Olympia airport in Tumwater for $5,362 a month. It currently leases 4,440 square feet in Arlington for $7,703 a month.
Today the Aviation Division shares a building with the Arlington Municipal Airport office and the city’s community development department. The airport plans to put the space up for lease again, airport manager Dave Ryan said. It’s a large area in a fairly new building. Search-and-rescue crews used it to stage air operations after the Oso mudslide.
The facility was built about five years ago in part to accommodate the Department of Transportation, Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said. The airport was looking to expand its main office and worked with WSDOT to create a space that would also work for the Aviation Division. The city owns the building and hopes to find a new tenant soon, Tolbert said.
“We were really hoping (the Department of Transportation) would be a partner here for a long time, but as we know, things in this world change,” she said. “We’re sorry to see them go, but we understand the business decision they have to make.”
With services like aircraft registration and grant applications online, Tolbert does not expect the move to be much of a hassle for pilots. There won’t be any reduction in services, just a new way of doing them, she said.
WSDOT Aviation handles aircraft registration, airport grants and investments, and land use planning for public airports around the state. The division also manages 16 airports, Marvel said. Neither the Arlington nor Olympia airport is state-operated.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.