A draft of an updated environmental assessment of plans for commercial flights from Paine Field by the FAA uncovered no new issues with the project. Service at the Everett airport could begin as soon as next year.
A plan to bring passenger flights to Paine Field in Everett has cleared a regulatory hurdle, paving the way for services to start early next year.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday released an updated environmental assessment, finding that commercial flights proposed by three airlines would not have a significant impact on traffic or noise in the area.
The report follows up on the regulator’s initial approval of commercial flights from Paine Field in 2012. Since then, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines proposed flights — 24 daily round trips, or double the number first proposed — that would bring more passengers than first anticipated. That triggered the second review that delayed the start of commercial flights from this fall to 2019.
The FAA’s 2012 assessment estimated boarding 112,000 passengers in the airport’s first year of commercial service, a number it expected would rise to 238,200 five years later.
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The updated assessment projected enplanements at about 656,000 in 2019, and 736,000 in 2024, should Alaska Airlines and United Airlines start using Boeing 737 jets for some flights initially assigned to smaller Embraer 175 planes. Southwest Airlines uses 737s exclusively.
Paine Field is currently used by Boeing for testing and delivery of widebody jets, as well as private owners of small planes, flight schools and commercial airline maintenance. Snohomish County, which owns the airport’s land, signed an agreement with a private developer in 2015 to build and operate a passenger terminal for up to 50 years, drawing criticism from some of its residents because of the project’s potential to increase pollution and traffic in the area. Others supported the plan, which the county said would help create jobs and boost local businesses.
Commercial flights would mean more traffic on adjacent roads and highways, the FAA said, but not enough to cause significant slowdowns. Areas that are already congested, including portions of Interstate 5 and Highways 99, 525, and 526, would remain clogged regardless of the addition of drivers making their way to the airport, the FAA said.
The review also found “no significant noise impacts” from the additional flights.
The FAA also said commercial flights from Paine Field wouldn’t cause ecological harm to wildlife in the Puget Sound such as chinook salmon and bull trout, or endangered species such as the southern resident killer whales.
A public hearing on the FAA’s environmental assessment is scheduled for Oct. 29 at the Lynnwood Convention Center. The public comment period runs through Nov. 2.