Port of Portland Readies Proposals for Hillsboro, Ore., Airport Expansion

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- By 2025, Hillsboro Airport's parking lot could include as much as one-fourth of the Washington County Fair Complex, and expected growth in flights and aircraft could require a costly move of Northwest Cornell Road.

The Port of Portland, the airport's operator, has crafted three packages to prepare for increasing demand. Those alternatives -- which could include turning about 25 acres of nearby fairgrounds into parking space and moving Northwest Evergreen Road again -- were reviewed by the master plan committee Thursday night.

The committee, consisting of airport operators and users, business owners and community members, told Port officials they don't want Evergreen Road to be moved and would like to seek county approval before signing off on the relocation of Cornell Road.

If approved, the changes would become part of the airport's master plan, a blueprint that will address airport demand and community concerns for the next 20 years. The Port and committee have been working for a year to update the plan and expect to complete it in the spring.

The upgrades would be phased in over time as demand increases and would depend on whether the Port can find money, which would generally come from a series of Port and Federal Aviation Administration grants. By 2025, Port officials expect the number of aircraft based at Hillsboro Airport, Oregon's second-largest airport, to increase from 363 to 465. The number of takeoffs and landings is expected to rise from 224,000 in 2003 to 323,000.

During the past year, the committee has gathered to review the nuts and bolts of the airport, including its role, inventory, demand and capacity.

On Thursday, after an open house Wednesday, the Port unveiled three development packages, ranging from $52.9 million to $126 million. All three options, which take into account land and air demands, call for a series of upgrades, including a new runway spanning 3,600 feet. That runway, which Port officials have wanted to build for more than a decade, would be built on the north end of the airport parallel to the existing 6,600-foot runway and perpendicular to another existing 4,049-foot runway. It would be used solely for landing small-engine aircraft.

That would allow larger business jets to land more quickly on the longest runway, said Daren Griffin, general aviation manager for the Port of Portland.

"We would spend less time circling in the pattern, wasting gas and creating noise," Griffin said. With each alternative, noise levels -- which will be addressed by the Port in the coming months along with environmental concerns -- will spread out over a larger area.

The noise, however, will still remain within airport property, Griffin said.

In addition to a third runway, all three packages call for a series of new taxiways, about 367,950 square feet more of hangar space, relocation of the terminal and more parking for cars and aircraft.

Alternative A, costing about $52.9 million, proposes the fewest changes, adding a new runway and several taxiways and hangars.

Alternative B, which would cost about $90.8 million, would include moving Northwest Cornell Road -- which currently runs along the airport's southern edge -- about 400 feet south and acquiring about 25 acres of fairgrounds land -- currently across Cornell -- to make space for car and aircraft parking, along with business buildings.

It also would include shifting the smaller runway about 235 feet toward the east and relocating the terminal closer to the MAX light-rail station, which is next to Northwest 34th Avenue and Cornell.

Alternative C, which would cost between $101.4 million and $126 million, includes two options. One consists of buying about 90 acres of mostly agricultural and industrial land north of the airport to build a new flight pattern known as Charlie -- the existing Charlie pattern has been active for about a month and is located parallel to the 6,600-foot runway, close to where the new runway would be built.

To keep up with an expected increase in flights and to segregate helicopter flights, a new Charlie pattern would need to be built on the northeast end of the airport, Griffin said.

If so, that would mean more noise along that end of the airport, Griffin said.

Henry Oberhelman, who lives along the airport's north edge, worries that may mean more disruption for him.

"We're going to be right below the flight area," said Oberhelman, who is a member of the Washington County Residents for Safe & Quiet Skies and Concerned Residents Against Student Helicopters, a group lobbying against helicopter noise at the airport. Oberhelman also worries about the impact airport growth will have on small business in the area.

Wink Brooks, a city planning director who sits on the master plan committee representing Hillsboro, told Port officials to consider scaling back on acquiring 90 acres. The city, he said, hopes to expand industrial land north of the airport and would like as much space possible. Alternative C also calls for building the new 3,600-foot runway farther north of the airport, which would require that Northwest Evergreen Road be moved. About 2,500 feet of the road, which was last moved in 2001, would shift about 300 feet to the north.

Like package B, part of package C includes turning part of the fairgrounds into parking and business space. Another C option includes pushing aircraft parking space closer to the airfield and moving a series of new hangars toward the north end of the airport.

In the coming months, Port officials plan to refine the package, which may include a combination of alternatives from the three packages. The project committee will meet again in March.