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  • Invest in Sea-Tac, a critical regional asset

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    Invest in Sea-Tac, a critical regional asset


    Connections through Sea-Tac enable efficient movement of goods and passengers that our trade-based economy needs for strength and resilience.


    By  and 
    Special to The Times

     
    Our region is growing, increasing air traffic volumes and posing challenges for the Puget Sound area.
    These are challenges many regions would love to have, because our growth is directly tied to a surging economy
     
    Vibrant local technology, life science and manufacturing sectors are creating jobs, sending high-value exports through the airport, and generating more business travel. Washington’s agricultural bounty passes through the airport on its way to markets around the world. Our area is an attractive destination for both individual tourists and conventions.

    Seattle-Tacoma International Airport sits squarely at the intersection of these and other economic drivers. It’s a key economic engine in its own right, generating more than 151,000 jobs and $22.5 billion in economic activity, according to a recent study.
     
    Connections through Sea-Tac enable efficient movement of goods and passengers that our trade-based economy needs for strength and resilience. There’s immeasurable economic value when employees of companies like Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks can travel through the airport to consult with customers around the globe.
    Similarly, there’s no way to calculate the humanitarian value when health officials from African nations arrive at Sea-Tac to meet with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discuss the needs of their people.
     
    Such connections are invaluable. They must be nurtured, not dismissed as too challenging to accommodate. We must have sufficient air capacity to continue serving business and individual travelers, as well as cargo shippers. With FAA funding, the Puget Sound Regional Council is conducting a comprehensive study of regional aviation demand, laying the foundation for strategic conversations on this issue.
     
    Additional airport facilities such as Paine Field need to be evaluated. But those resources can’t be created and scaled overnight. So it’s critically important to continue investing in Sea-Tac, both to catch up with dramatic growth over the past five years and to ensure efficient, reliable and comfortable service for the future.
     
    That means looking beyond just airfield and airport-facilities improvements. Passenger experiences begin long before they reach the airport terminal. So the State Department of Transportation, Sound Transit and other transit agencies must work with the Port Commission to improve the roadway network and transit services around the airport.
     
    Efforts to reduce single-occupancy-vehicle trips will improve passenger experiences, help reduce airport-related congestion that impacts surrounding communities, and improve the sustainability of airport operations.
     
    The Port Commission has made sustainability a top priority. Great progress has been made in reducing waste streams, expanding use of electric vehicles to service planes on the ground, and increasing use of lower-emission fuels. These efforts must remain a focus.
     
    South Sound businesses recognize that aircraft noise and environmental issues are impacts. Quieter engines and alternative fuel are part of the answer. But regional government, business and environmental leaders also must continue working with the FAA to develop innovative strategies to mitigate impacts and spread them more equitably. Meaningful regional collaboration is needed to solve this complex puzzle and ensure our region not only has capacity to grow, but is able to do so in ways that benefit all.
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