by Andrew Crisp
Friday, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch (R) and a group of reporters gathered at the new facility for a tour, and some talk of what’s to come for Boise’s airport. The cement control tower at the South end of the airport rises a staggering 295 feet into the air, casting a shadow like that of an Egyptian obelisk.
The new $23 million facility, when opened, will boast 550 sq.-feet at the top, and over 11,000 sq.-feet at the bottom, where the TRACON will be located. Building was temporarily delayed over a decision to implement new radar technology, a federal requirement by 2013, or maintain the old system for now.
Back in June, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Senators Risch and Mike Crapo, and Congressman Walt Minnick announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had decided to let Boise airport’s TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) station remain in the Treasure Valley. Originally the FAA had promoted moving the TRACON terminal to Salt Lake City, where they would monitor Boise’s air traffic remotely.
The FAA originally claimed that the move would save taxpayers a total of $24 million over 25 years. Opponents quickly raised safety concerns with the arrangement, and argued that the move would ultimately cost Boiseans more money, namely in installation of a high-speed data connection from Boise to Salt Lake.
“From the beginning, all we asked was that the decision be based on sound, verifiable information,” Mayor Bieter said at the time. “Keeping the TRACON here is going to save a considerable amount of money.”
In addition to keeping the 30 jobs necessary for tower operation in Boise, the facility allows the airport potential for future growth. “The new addition of the new terminal has actually obstructed some of the old tower’s view…the airport effectively outgrew the old tower,” said Mark Griffin, an airtraffic controller.
While looking over the valley from what is now the tallest building in Boise (“except for the one with the Christmas tree during the holidays”), Senator Risch and General Gary Saylor talked about plans for a third full-size runway south of the new tower. Currently named the “assault strip” for its military use, the 5000 foot long strip would eventually be lengthened to 11000. To get there, terminal access would be built below a redone Gowen Road, which runs south of the Airport.
"It's always good to win one...it's hard to say what the results would have been. We all knew the importance of it, so we put our weight behind it," said Risch.