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New central Texas airport moves a step closer to realityNew central Texas airport moves a step closer to reality

New central Texas airport moves a step closer to reality

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AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill
Dunn meets with Patty Guerra, legislative aide to Texas State Senator Stephen Ogden, on the Central Texas Airport.

A bill that would free up funding and create a badly needed airport in central Texas is working its way through the Texas Legislature.

After starting in the House of Representatives, the bill has moved out of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee without changes and has been placed on the Senate consent calendar. That means that it will be soon voted on along with a raft of other legislation. Next stop, the governor's desk. Sen. Stephen Ogden, the Senate sponsor of the bill, has championed swift passage and worked closely with AOPA and the committee chairman Todd Staples.

AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn and AOPA Southwest Regional Representative Shelly Lesikar have been camped out in Austin to make sure the bill goes through. They also have been meeting with local officials - Mayor John Cowman of Leander, Texas, in particular. Despite little interest from other municipalities, including several that are flatly rejecting an airport in their jurisdictions, Cowman has stepped forward and seen the value of having a new airport in his area. He also was the catalyst behind the original House Bill 2656. While a site has not been officially selected, Cowman's enthusiasm is encouraging.

"The mayor is a dynamo of excitement over the prospect of the airport's location and the project overall," said Dunn. "He showed us preliminary engineering drawings on the location with runway configuration options. A 7,000-foot runway is planned. This progressive mayor obviously understands the positive economic impact a new general aviation airport will have on his city. This is the closest we've come to seeing the new airport actually being built!"

In the early 1990s, the City of Austin began planning to close Robert Mueller Field, an airport that served general aviation exceptionally well with its close location to the city, and transfer both GA and commercial operations to the distant former military airfield at Bergstrom Air Force base. Local pilots and AOPA recognized that that would not serve GA well and began lobbying to keep Mueller as a GA-only facility. The city promised - but never delivered - equal facilities for GA at Bergstrom. So AOPA began efforts to get a new GA airport built.

In 1999, AOPA nearly succeeded in getting a bill that would have required the state to take over Mueller, downsize it, and operate the airport as a strictly general aviation facility.

In the 2001 legislative session (the Texas Legislature meets every other year), AOPA helped get House Bill 2522 passed and signed by the governor. That started the Texas Department of Transportation on a project to identify sites for a new airport. Unfortunately, local officials wouldn't approve any of the three locations TDOT had picked. This latest bill reenergizes the process of building a new airport.

May 19, 2005

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