Letters to the Editor

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL To the Editor:
I just finished reading your article concerning the MidAmerica Airport ("Terminal Illness," RFT, Dec. 16). In general, the article was balanced, nowhere near as shrill as the Post-Dispatch. I commend the leaders of St. Clair County for their farsightedness, unlike the myopia of some local political and business leaders. There's numerous examples of airports built in the boonies only to develop into busy airports. Dulles International in Virginia is one example, as is Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas. Both airports were intentionally built far from the then-current metropolitan areas, and for some reason the metropolitan areas expanded to encompass both airports. Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield is a local example. It started as a small private field and expanded into a major industrial park after the county bought it. The New York City area supports three major airports and several reliever airports, as does Los Angeles. O'Hare Airport in Chicago replaced Midway a long time ago as Chicago's major airport. Midway is a very landlocked airport.

The opposition to MidAmerica by Lambert officials and local politicians reminds me of the opposition to the construction of the Waterloo Airport 25 years ago. If that airport had been built, there would be no need for the W-1W expansion plan or, for that matter, the Lambert expansion of 20 years ago. When W-1W is completed and 20 years from now Lambert needs to expand again, where will they expand to? While our political leaders support the idea of regionalism, the only folks who practice it are the leaders from Illinois. For some reason our leaders believe that MidAmerica will drain jobs from this side of the river. The MidAmerica Airport will not only create jobs but attract businesses and jobs from outside the region. The aviation industry is experiencing one of its largest expansions in its history. The area surrounding MidAmerica is now prime commercial property for all kinds of businesses. Given time, the airline traffic to MidAmerica will start and expand, businesses will be established and grow, and in 20 years or so when Lambert Field becomes a reliever airport to MidAmerica, the leaders in St. Clair County will be able to say they were right all along. All they need is time; just ask the folks at Dulles International.

Greg Kuklinski

To the Editor:
Anyone with a passing knowledge of the airline industry knew that the concept of a "reliever airport" in a metropolitan area the size of St. Louis was hopeless. There are simply no such cases except where at least a million more people live. For St. Louis, the choice is clear -- expand Lambert or build a replacement. My suspicion is that the MidAmerica construction jobs were as much a driving force as any serious hope of attracting commercial traffic. By this measure, MidAmerica is a great success, though the air travelers who paid for it through their ticket taxes (including me) may not agree.

Wendell Cox

To the Editor:
In Melinda Roth's story on MidAmerica Airport, she described the view along I-64 as a view of "a few churches, some fencing, silos and cornfields from the bluffs of Fairview Heights to the airport." I don't know what Ms. Roth was seeing, but the development along this stretch of I-64 has been explosive during the last 15 years.

Along this stretch of I-64 are more than 15 new hotels, 50 restaurants, 200,000 square feet of office buildings, 3 million square feet of retail space and virtually every type of development, including two multiscreen theaters.

Your description of MidAmerica Airport's current situation is fairly accurate. However, business leaders from both sides of the river predict it's just a matter of time before small airlines or a cargo/overnight carrier lands at MidAmerica. You must understand, it takes 10 years to design, acquire federal approvals, purchase land and build an airport. St. Clair County officials should be commended for their commitment to investing in the future with transportation infrastructure. This includes not only the airport but MetroLink extensions and highway-improvement plans.

The next time you drive along I-64, Ms. Roth, remove your blinders. You'll see a vibrant "East County" that is poised for the future.

Terry Johnson
President, Johnson Properties

KNOCK-DOWN DRAG-OUT

To the Editor:
I take issue with Ald. Jim Shrewsbury's assertion that the outcry has been limited regarding the planned destruction of the Arena (RFT, Dec. 9). Of course he would say that -- he sponsored the demolition bill!

There has been an enormous expression of anger and frustration from all over the city and county. Wherever we have petitioned, people scramble to sign up. I get calls every day from people anxious to help. We know that the aldermen and mayor have been besieged with phone calls and letters.

The reaction of young people is the most touching to me, because most have never even set foot inside the Arena. Teachers have created study units based on students' concerns. Rockwood School District has an Arena Web site. St. Louis Career Academy students came up with fundraising ideas. High-school kids are out petitioning. A St. Louis University student, representing SLU student government, spoke at the public hearing, reminding the committee of what has happened at Kingshighway and Chippewa. These kids are not burdened with the "can't do" attitude of this city; they recognize what a tragedy it would be to lose the Arena and the tremendous potential that it has.

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