Puget Sound Regional Council amends the Regional Airport System Plan to support a third runway at Sea-Tac International Airport and development of a major supplemental airport on April 29, 1993.

  • By Walt Crowley (with research by Daryl McClary and Paula Becker)
  • Posted 3/21/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 4203
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On April 29, 1993, the Puget Sound Regional Council’s General Assembly adopts Resolution A-93-03 amending the 1988 Regional Airport System Plan  (RASP) on the basis of a three-year “Flight Plan” study concluded in 1992. The Resolution declares that "the region should pursue vigorously, as the preferred alternative, a major supplemental airport and a third runway at Sea-Tac," subject to additional Expert Arbitration Panel reviews. The motion passes with an 89 percent majority.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) represented more than 50 cities and King, Pierce, Kitsap, and Snohomish counties as the federally chartered Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Puget Sound region. Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac)International Airport, owned and operated by the Port of Seattle, is the largest and busiest of the region’s 27 public airports. The region’s air service needs and development investments are governed by a federally mandated Regional Airport System Plan.

Beginning in 1988, the Port of Seattle and other planners forecasted that Sea-Tac could reach all-weather capacity by the year 2000. Because the airport's two parallel runways lay only 800 feet apart, only one could be used under low visibility conditions, which prevailed approximately 44 percent of the time. This situation resulted in flight delays, and cost airlines and passengers millions of dollars annually.

Between 1989 and 1992, the Port of Seattle and Puget Sound Regional Council conducted a public study of possible solutions to this problem. Known as "Flight Plan," the two-year-plus effort entailed extensive citizen outreach and technical analysis of numerous options for meeting regional air travel needs through 2020.

Passage of Resolution A-93-03 modified the Regional Airport System Plan to accommodate construction of a third runway at Sea-Tac and development of a major supplemental airport, subject to studies and findings of Expert Review Panels appointed by the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation. The panel charged to research the feasibility of a new airport never met because the Puget Sound Regional Council soon abandoned its quest for a second airport as infeasible. The panel appointed to explore the potential effectiveness of improved “demand and systems management” approaches at Sea-Tac never met because this option was also deemed inadequate. This left one active panel to review and verify Sea-Tac’s plans and performance in reducing aircraft noise impacts on its neighbors.

After extensive public hearings and input, the Regional Council formally concluded that no feasible site could be found in the region for a supplemental airport with adoption of Resolution EB-94-01 on October 27, 1994. The Expert Panel later reported that demand and system management improvements would be inadequate to cope with projected capacity needs. It also found that Sea-Tac noise abatement efforts had fallen short of PSRC goals and recommended stricter standards and criteria for noise reductions. These findings led to adoption of PSRC Resolution A-96-02 on July 11, 1996, which reaffirmed development of a third Sea-Tac runway subject to better progress on noise abatement and mitigation.


Puget Sound Regional Council General Assembly Resolution A-93-03, April 29, 1993; “Resolution A-93-03 Implementation Steps,” PSRC Executive Board, August 26, 1993 and September 23, 1993. PSRC General Assembly Resolution A-96-02, July 11, 1996; Port of Seattle Commission Resolution 3212, August 1, 1996; “Regional Air Capacity -- Public Involvement History,” Port of Seattle memorandum, July 29, 2002; Detailed History of the Third Runway Planning Process,” Port of Seattle memorandum, October 3, 2002; The Seattle Times, March 28, 1996.
Note: This essay was corrected on December 5, 2008.

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