Why Peoria is looking to potentially build a new airport — and who's unhappy about the plan

By Mark Brodie
Published: Monday, December 11, 2023 - 11:33am
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2023 - 5:29pm

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Peoria City Hall
City of Peoria
Peoria City Hall

Peoria is looking into whether it can build an airport in the city.

The City Council earlier this year allocated half a million dollars to hire a consulting firm to do a feasibility study. But, not all of Peoria’s neighbors are on board with this potential plan.

Jeremy Duda of Axios Phoenix reported on the story, and joined The Show to talk more about it.

Driven by Taiwan Semiconductor plant, economic development

MARK BRODIE: So what exactly does Peoria want to do? Like, what kind of airport are we talking about?

JEREMY DUDA: We're not talking about something like Sky Harbor that would have like passenger planes and you know, cargo flights. It would be, it would be an air park kind of modeled after a Scottsdale. It would be small- to medium-sized, business planes, general aviation aircraft, kind of a reliever airport, probably something kind of similar to what you see, like the Deer Valley Airport or some of the other more smaller regional airports around the Valley.

BRODIE: And why, like why is Peoria looking into this? Like, what, what do they see, see as the need for this?

DUDA: They feel like this will be kind of a driver of economic development. They feel like this would really help it would service the incoming Taiwan, Taiwan Semiconductor plant that's going in, in that area. It's in Phoenix, but very near northern Peoria. And they've seen kind of the economic development that the Scottsdale and other areas have gotten from these kinds of airports. This is something that Mayor [Jason] Beck, when he was running for mayor last year, really touted on the campaign trail as something he'd like to see. So it's something that they, they've had their eye on for a while now.

BRODIE: Is it the kind of thing where the airport itself would sort of be a component of it? But just a component, because obviously in Scottsdale, there's other businesses or other things around the air park that make it the economic driver. It is, is that, is that sort of expanded model, what pure is looking into?

DUDA: Yeah, that's very much kind of the model that they're looking at an air park kind of as opposed to like just an airport is kind of the way they're describing it and kind of this exploratory phase.

BRODIE: Do we have a sense of where this might be in Peoria?

DUDA: They have not said. According to the to city officials, they don't have a specific location in mind, but it looks like a lot of folks are eyeing a spot at the old Carefree Highway and Lake Pleasant Parkway, which is the site of ... another former airport that shut down a a while ago. And there is a, you know, there's a runway, there is a lot of space there.

And even in some city documents, they kind of hint that that would be where it's at. The in the budget, this current year's budget, in addition to the money for this for this feasibility study that's going on, they appropriated they moved over a bunch of money for improvements to Lake Pleasant Parkway between Highway 74 and Loop 303. And in some budget, documents specifically says this would connect Lake Pleasant Parkway to the airport.

There's not a lot in that area on that stretch of the parkway except for this former airport, the Pleasant Valley Airport that closed down a while ago.

BRODIE: I mean, that seems like it would make sense, right? Lots of space in a runway or a good start for an airport.

DUDA: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of open space in that area. It's very undeveloped area in general.

But yeah, if you're going to, if you want to build a new airport, it stands to reason you'd wanna look at the site of a former airport, especially if you already have at least a little bit of infrastructure in place. Although not much, there's not a, there's not a lot over there and it's been an abandoned for a while.

BRODIE: So as you report, Phoenix is not thrilled with this prospect. What are their concerns with Peoria doing something like this?

DUDA: Well, the Phoenix aviation director wrote a letter to Peoria a couple weeks ago, and mainly their concerns are A) what this would do to the air traffic in general in the area. It's already very busy, very congested. And more specifically, how it would, would it hinder, would it infringe upon both the Deer Valley Airport and Luke Air Force Base. And the Deer Valley Airport is not too far from there.

It's a little bit further away from the TSMC plant than this, that, that potential airport site in Peoria is, but they are concerned about the conflicting airspace. I think probably conflicting, kind of poaching on some of their business and some of their flights.

And then also there's the potential that could conflict with Luke Air Force Base. And the officials at Luke tell me they have no concerns currently, basically because there's no proposal right now. But I'm sure if this moves forward, they'll want to weigh in as well.

BRODIE: Has Peoria responded to those concerns at all?

DUDA: They do not, they basically, they're saying this is an exploratory phase. There'll be time to, I think, kind of deal with some of that later. This is not, you know, there's, there's no specific plans yet. It's very early in the process, this study that they're doing now.

It's one of, I think four that the FAA would require, and one of about six that the city is, embarking on, and this one is not even expected to be finished until, I believe, spring of 2024. And after that, I'm sure we have a pretty long runway, no pun intended, before we actually get to anything that would resemble an actual airport.

BRODIE: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that in terms of like, what has to happen before a final yay or nay decision is made and like how long that might all take? It sounds like quite a while.

DUDA: Yeah, I don't have any specific timeline. No one's really able to give me anything like that, but I would imagine we're talking years because, yeah, multiple studies assume FAA approval, I presume whatever concerns Phoenix and/or Luke Air Force Base might have, would have to be addressed, and you actually have to have funding. And, that would be, I would imagine, a pretty massive commitment by the city of Peoria, both to build it and probably to maintain it for a while.

As the former Phoenix aviation director who's been off the job for about 10 years, he told me that, you know, Sky Harbor, this Phoenix Aviation Department runs not only Sky Harbor but the Deer Valley Airport and the Phoenix Goodyear Airport as well. And what he was telling me is that Phoenix Sky Harbor has to subsidize the other two, and he's predicted that Peoria would end up having to do the same thing for the long run if that's what they wanted to, if they actually want to build that airport there.

BRODIE: Right. Well, so are there also environmental studies, like, is that part of it in, in addition to sort of the feasibility and economic studies? I imagine there's some environmental stuff that has to happen, too.

DUDA: I would imagine as well. I'm not entirely sure what the other studies that would be required once this current feasibility study is completed, but I would imagine that I mean, you can't build anything that large without having to do some kind of environmental study, although they would probably benefit from the fact that they can say, hey, there was an airport here for years. So we already kind of, you know, potentially know what the environmental impact would be.

Although obviously they're also looking to have a lot of other stuff kind of built up around there if they were to put that airport there. If that is in fact the site.

BRODIE: Right. Absolutely. I mean, it sounds like there's still a lot of TBAs on this on this project at this point. 

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