Tag Archives: SJC

What About Extending Runway 12R/30L North? Scenario 11

Could an extra 36 feet in building height in both the downtown and the Diridon Station Areas be gained without changing current One Engine Inoperative procedures Norman Y. Mineta, San Jose International Airport?

By extending runway 12R/30L over De La Cruz Boulevard into the current FAA VOR antenna field, it looks like the runway could begin 1,360 feet to the north of its current start point. At a 37.5:1 (1-foot elevation for every 37.5 feet in the horizontal direction), this would yield the 36 feet gain, across the board with current OEI.

In the documentation provided by the Airport, the only reference to extending the runway was provided in this slide in a May 2018 presentation. There was no explanation of what had been examined in this so-called Scenario.

Scenario 11 from the May 2018 Report
Scenario 11 from the May 2018 Report

Perhaps, the slide that should have been created is below, which depicts a runway and taxiway extending over De La Cruz Avenue to the field where the FAA’s antenna field is. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the FAA plans on decommissioning that obsolete radio facility, freeing up the land for other uses (within bounds of airspace restrictions), such as a runway extension.

Extension Idea

Would extending the runway necessitate an extension beyond the freeway, etc.?

Hopefully not, as the extended part of the runway (on the north side of De La Cruz) would only be used for take-offs. Page 3-13 of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Santa Clara County indicates that there must be a runway protection zone.[1]

“At this airport the RPZ [Runway Protection Zone] as adopted by the airport and the FAA, begins 200 feet out from the runway’s displaced landing thresholds (not the pavement ends). It is a trapezoidal area centered on the extended runway centerline. The size is related to the expected aircraft use and the visibility minimums for that particular runway.”

There is no reason that a longer runway would need to change the displaced landing thresholds.

Would the Investment Be Worth It?

The question is how much would it cost to extend the runway and taxiway over De La Cruz? The documentation provided by the airport doesn’t show any analysis of estimated costs to extend the runway, so we don’t know if this idea was dismissed from a cost-benefit or a technical standpoint.

Although it didn’t make the cost-benefit analysis cut in the study, a net gain of 35 feet would provide greater benefit from a downtown height perspective than any of the scenarios, including the Airport’s recommended Scenario 4. Taken by itself, there would be some gain in the Diridon Station Area as well. If combined with a Scenario 10b, it would allow building heights of 69 to 93 feet taller than today in the Diridon Station Area, which starts to approach height increases suggested by Scenario 4.

If combined with Scenarios 10b it’s reasonable to assume gains for a runway extension to be somewhere between the $438M to $747M of Scenario 10b and Scenario 4, respectively. As pointed out here, the net gains for Scenario 4 would be $26 to $203 lower due to negative economic impact to the airport, which wouldn’t occur with a combined runway extension/Scenario 10b.

But there would be a big upfront construction investment. How much would that cost? That’s a good question and something that should have been addressed by the OEI study.

In the absence of data from the 2018 OEI study, Maui’s airport can be a proxy as it faces a similar dilemma in terms of departures and is planning a runway extension:[2]

“The runway extension, projected to cost $96 million and built by 2021, would allow planes such as the Boeing 737-800 and 777-200 to take off at maximum weight for cities such as Chicago, Dallas and Denver, the plan said. Currently, those flights have to take off with reduced fuel that requires a stop in Honolulu to refuel before heading to the Mainland.”

This 1,500-foot runway extension runs into a road and they are looking at building a tunnel for the road, but they don’t provide an estimate for that cost. Using Caltrans estimates of $500/square foot, the cost of a 150’x1,500’ underpass would be approximately $112.5M.[3] Assuming costs similar to the Maui example of $96M for extending the runway 1,500’, the total cost would be $208M ($112M+96M).

Rounding up to 250M for engineering costs, etc. and applying a cost of financing of 6% over 30 years, would result in a payment of $1.8M per month.[4] Assuming the Airport bore all this cost (no FAA Grants, no value capture from increased heights downtown) and assuming a continued growth to 21.8M passengers (approximate passenger projection by 2038), then the cost per passenger would be approximately $1, which, when added to existing costs, would still be less than SFO and continue to be competitive with OAK’s rates.

Although the above back-of-the-envelope financial analysis assumes that SJC shoulders all the costs, it doesn’t include the gains from being able to continue to market SJC as the international airport in the heart of Silicon Valley.

[1] See https://www.sccgov.org/sites/dpd/DocsForms/Documents/ALUC_SJC_CLUP.pdf and Appendix A for a map showing the runway protection zones.

[2] See http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2017/02/a-longer-main-runway-is-part-of-master-plan-for-kahului-airport/

[3] Costs of Caltrans bridge http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/esc/estimates/COMP_BR_COSTS_2016-eng.pdf Here is the cost of a couple of different underpasses in southern California http://media.metro.net/projects_studies/regionalrail/PS2415-3420_AlternativesDevelopmentReport_2016-0126.pdf

[4] This website used for calculations http://www.municapital.com/payment-calculator.html

Appendix A – SJC Runway Protection Zones

Runway Protection Zone

Appendix B – Examples of Airports With Runways Over Roads



Why the Rush to Adopt Scenario 4?

[Note: This author appreciates the efforts and insight of airport staff, committee members, and airport commissioners in studying various One Engine Inoperative (OEI) scenarios. These were the comments intended to be said at the January 28, 2019, CED meeting, but not well articulated once in front of the microphone.  To some extent, the following represents some of the highlights of the 4/24/19 memo approved by the Airport Commission. Please refer to that memo for more detail]

The City of San Jose Councilmembers are about to address what might be the most important land-use/airport-use decision they will ever make; a decision that will have ramifications for generations to come. To be clear, if the recommended option, Scenario 4, is selected, SJC will be relegated to an airport that primarily serves destinations in North America.

So, why the rush to change building downtown and Diridon Station Area (DSA) heights, given there are no developments requesting the added height and that the community vision process for DSA has not yet begun?

As we look at how we can achieve greater building heights and continued airport growth, we should be looking holistically at how to maximize the public value from seemingly disparate activities of Diridon Station Area placemaking, the EIR for the Airport Master Plan and the ongoing Airline Lease negotiations. The outcome of the process will have an impact that lasts for generations; well beyond the 2038 projections given in the November 2018 presentation.

The OEI study and other related activities that are about to occur.
The OEI study and other related activities that are about to occur.

But before we look at how the process should work, let’s take a closer look at Scenario 4 and a few of the concerns expressed by the Airport Commission in its January 24th, 2018 vote.

First and foremost, the information provided to the Airport Commission in preparation for the January 14th meeting represents an incohesive and, incomplete report (e.g. data was spread over multiple presentations from different points in time) and there were many data points that don’t tie together; especially as it relates to potential economic value. Simply, the information has not been well communicated.¹

The process seems rushed in the sense that there are several factors (Airport Master Plan, Airline Lease Negotiations and Diridon Station Area Community Meetings) that could affect the modeled scenarios. As an example of an assumption that could easily change, after the upcoming community meetings (aka the Google Village meetings), is the number of residences per home.

The model assumes 1.43 residents per dwelling, which is fewer than the 2.4 and 2.9 people per home that currently reside in the 95126 and 95110 ZIP codes, respectively. The implication is what has been modeled would not be a place for families and could be an indicator of displacement of existing families.

Similarly, it seems like we are missing an opportunity to integrate the airport into the larger urban fabric, as is being done by leading international airports that have a strategic vision that maximizes the value of the real estate for the airport and community. Max Hirsh (PhD, Harvard), a professor at the University of Hong Kong, suggests airports can be part of the larger community and can diversify their income at the same time.

“If you superimposed the average airport over a map of the city that it serves, you’d find that it’s about the same size as the entire downtown core….The world’s leading airports view these real estate holdings as a critical source of non-aeronautical revenue. They’ve transformed that land into a variety of profitable commercial developments, including hotels, office parks, and shopping centers. Still, others have built concert arenas, university campuses, and tourist attractions.”

To incorporate this sort of thinking suggested by Professor Hirsh means we need to integrate what are now disparate planning exercises.  A rough view of how a change to a process where the OEI study would be influenced by factors that have yet to be determined is depicted below.

An improved OEI process that incorporates related activities
An improved OEI process that incorporates related activities

The results of the draft report would inform the Airport Master Plan (e.g. impact on passenger growth, land-use decisions, etc.) the current lease negotiations and the upcoming Diridon Station Area community meetings.

Front loading the planning process like this would add time in the beginning because it would involve more stakeholders and provide the opportunity to test assumptions prior to committing to a long-term change. In the long-term, this would probably save time, as all the stakeholders would have an opportunity to participate in the process.

I voted for Scenario 10b because it was the best option, given the data we were provided. But, if we keep refining our assumptions, as described above, an even better scenario, that creates a greater net public good, could appear. Stay tuned to this blog for another idea that this author doesn’t believe has been fully studied, as it didn’t appear as a scenario in the materials provided by the Airport.

¹The presentation of the information, primarily in multiple slide decks combined with memorandums, makes it difficult to understand the data and its sources. Reading it reminded the author of the root cause of the Challenger accident of poor communication between the engineers and management. To quote from an author who analyzed the communications breakdown that led to that tragic event, “The main problem here is that those engineers did not clearly explain the effects so management thought it was no big deal and they passed it.”

[Note: Although he is an SJC Airport Commissioner representing District 1, the views expressed here are the author’s own.]