Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission Commonly Asked Questions

Why did the State Legislature decide to establish the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC)?

The Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) was created by the Washington State Legislature because of concerns that Sea-Tac International Airport is nearing its capacity limits. Commercial aviation includes both passenger and air cargo and is considered an essential public facility by the State Growth Management Act because it is so central to our economic health. The CACC has been charged to present a list of six potential options by January 2021, a short list of two by September 2021 and a single preferred location by January 2022. It is possible this schedule may be extended by the Legislature due to the disruption of the pandemic, as well as to allow potential local sponsors an opportunity to consider their preferences.

Why do we need another major commercial aviation facility in Washington State?

A number of aviation studies, including the Regional Aviation Baseline Study currently being undertaken by the Puget Sound Regional Council, indicate that by 2050 Sea-Tac will exceed its current capacity by 29M enplanements. Similarly, by 2050, air cargo demand is expected to more than double from 552,000 to 1.3 million metric tons. If Washington’s aviation system cannot accommodate demand, our jobs and economy will be impacted.

Who makes the decision to build or expand an airport?

The decision to build or expand an airport requires agreement between local jurisdictions, the airport sponsor, funding partners and regulatory agencies which likely would include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the State of Washington, and environmental agencies, among others. A central decision maker is the airport sponsor, which would be the lead agency in developing a new airport.

What will the CACC consider as they develop their recommendations?

The Commission is mindful of the impact a new large airport, or expanding existing airports, could have on the environment and local community. The Commission is comprised of the spectrum of stakeholders; private citizens, industry representatives, government partners, associations; each selected to participate because of the knowledge and expertise they bring to this discussion. The Commission seeks a collaborative and inclusive discussion that benefits from the unique perspectives each commission member brings.

The CACC is bound to consider several factors in developing its recommendations:

  1. What locations are available that can physically accommodate projected aviation demand?
  2.  Are there ways of managing aviation demand that can reduce costs and/or impacts?
  3.  Is there a willing airport sponsor?
  4. Is the site near enough and accessible to population centers?
  5. What do members of the public favor or oppose regarding potential sites?

How can members of the public provide input to the CACC’s recommendations about the site?

The CACC will give significant weight to public input prior to making any of its recommendations. Although regulations for social distance make it impossible to hold in-person public meetings, there are a number of ways in which members of the public can provide input:

  1. For the time-being, meetings of the CACC will be held on-line, and members of the public will be able to observe those meetings in real time, and on video. Members of the public are encouraged to provide email or other written feedback to the commission, and the first agenda item of each CACC meeting will be to summarize public comment.
  2.  Members of the public are encouraged to write to the CACC, care of the Washington State Aviation Division. The Division is committed to respond to any questions or comments you may have.
  3. Prior to decisions about the short lists or other recommendations, the CACC will sponsor on-line open houses, on-line questionnaires, encourage written comment, and hold one or more public hearings to assure broad public input.
  4. Regular updates about the work of the commission will be posted on the website at https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/commission/home.htm.

What will a new airport cost?

It is too early in the process to determine the costs for building or expanding an airport. Nevertheless, one can be assured that the process of planning, conducting a thorough environmental assessment, and constructing the facility will be a significant public investment. As the list of potential facilities becomes narrower, the Commission will consider costs and financing options.

Is there a short list of locations being considered?

The Commission began looking at potential sites identified during aviation studies such as the Flight Plan (1992), Washington’s Long-Term Air Transportation Study (LATS) (2006) and the Regional Aviation Baseline Study currently underway from an original list of sites in the Puget Sound Region. At the same time, staff have identified areas outside the original Puget Sound Study area that might be suitable and developed a list of 20 potential sites for Commissioners to consider. Staff have also been briefing local jurisdictions to gauge their interest in whether they would like to be considered for future expansion of their local airports.

Will only one site be selected?

The legislation requires a single preferred site but also asks for recommendations on improvements at other locations and a strategic view of future aviation facility needs.