With King County Executive Ron Sims rejecting proposals for bringing commercial flights to Boeing Field, regional officials may still face...

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With King County Executive Ron Sims rejecting proposals for bringing commercial flights to Boeing Field, regional officials may still face the daunting prospect of locating and building a second Puget Sound-area airport in the coming years.

Sims’ decision leaves the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as the only airport that offers major air service in the region.

Even though it is undergoing a major expansion, planners have long warned that Sea-Tac is expected to run out of capacity by 2021.

The Puget Sound Regional Council, a four-county transportation and economic planning agency, spent years studying air-traffic capacity and concluded in 1996 that the region needed a third runway at Sea-Tac and a second airport to the north or south.

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“We’re running out of capacity sometime in the ’20s, so we as a region need to seriously look for additional capacity,” said Charlie Howard, transportation planning director for the council.

After years of lobbying the state Legislature, a Senate bill was passed this year to begin a four-year study on the state’s air capacity at the state Department of Transportation.

The aviation division is searching for a consulting firm to begin the first phase of the study, which will look at airport capacity statewide.

At the end of the study, a governor-appointed commission is expected to make recommendations.

King County Councilman Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, predicts that recommendation will lead to the same community furor that the Boeing Field proposals stirred.

“There’s nothing more difficult than siting an airport. It’s easier to site a waste plant, it’s easier to site a jail, prison,” Pelz said. “When we begin that battle in the next five or 10 years, there will be voices saying let’s revisit Boeing Field … It’s about the most political thing you can do.”