‘Shorter walking distances’ a top request as planning for Norfolk’s airport revamp continues


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As engineers and consultants continue to work on long term plans for Norfolk International Airport, several suggestions are rising to the top.

In a public meeting Thursday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton Norfolk Airport, consultants with CHA presented their latest draft of the Airport Master Plan.

“The fact that the walk between the departure building and the arrivals building and the parking garage has become an issue. We recognize that,” said Paul Puckli with CHA. “Part of our charge is to figure out how to minimize walking distances.”

Looking at how the makeup of the terminal could be improved is just one subset in the much larger plan that is estimated to be completed early next year. The consultants have also looked at alternatives for a new runway, TSA checkpoint, curbside dropoff, and infrastructure improvements.

CSA forecasts the airport could see 2.8 million travelers annually in 2038. That’s up 1 million from 2018.

One thing airport officials say they definitely need is a new runway. There are currently two, one of was only used for 1.4 percent of the time.

“The smaller runway is too short for commercial jets and larger cargo planes,” said Steve Sterling, Deputy Executive Director of the Norfolk Airport Authority. “Airlines want reliability and dependability at the airport.”

Under current conditions, Sterling says if a plan has a flat in its landing gear and becomes disabled on the larger runway, it would prevent all aircraft from landing. A new runway could avoid this.

“If one runway has to be shut down for any reason, another runway would be open,” Sterling said.

One of three alternatives narrowed down by CHA for further study calls for the construction of a runway just east of the current large one.

Problem is that the U.S. Navy has objections.

Mark Schafer, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group Two, wrote in a letter to the authority that the Navy will be unable to complete required training if the airport builds the proposed parallel runway and that any shift away from Virginia Beach would jack up their costs by $4.5 million.

But airport leadership said they are confident they can continue to work with the Navy to work out issues.

“The ability to expand the airport is very limited, in fact nonexistent,” Sterling said. “We really have to operate within the existing perimeter of the airfield.”

Costs for any the additions have yet to be compiled.

It is why Sterling urges community members to look at the work that has been done thus far.

“We have done a lot of planning here and looking at the forecast of the airport, the needs of the airport, but it’s equally important for us to hear from the general public who uses the airport,” Sterling said.

Read the latest draft of the plan here and comment here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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