Puget Sound area passenger and freight air traffic is projected to double by 2050, and even with future expansions at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Paine Field, there will not be enough capacity in the Puget Sound region without a new airport.
The Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission created by the Washington state Legislature has proposed two greenfield sites in southeast Pierce County, plus one more east of Olympia. The Legislature is currently looking for ways to slow down the work of the commission in response to substantial local opposition.
The commission’s most recent report did not consider a joint-use airport at McChord Air Force Base. Perhaps the commission could study the joint-use Charleston International Airport, which shares runways and services with Charleston AFB. This might provide a model for how McChord AFB could be adapted to serve as a joint-use airport.
A quick look at Google Maps shows the east side of the existing runway at McChord is mostly empty land which might be available for passenger and freight terminals. With easy access to existing freeways (Interstate 5 and state Route 512), a passenger airport at McChord could easily serve passengers arriving from locations across Pierce and Thurston counties.
There’s even an opportunity to build a short link to the Sound Transit rail station in Lakewood just across I-5 from McChord.
Perhaps the U.S. Air Force could help the Puget Sound region avoid a messy fight about the location of a future greenfield airport by sharing its perfectly located existing runway?