$5.1-mil­lion land pur­chase ‘strate­gic in­vest­ment’ for air­port, says re­gion

Pas­sen­ger to­tals down, losses up at Bres­lau fa­cil­ity, but of­fi­cials ex­pect to see in­crease in de­mand in fu­ture

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

A RE­CENT PUR­CHASE OF 212-acres of farm­land in Bres­lau is be­ing de­scribed as a strate­gic in­vest­ment in the re­gion’s air­port. Ap­proved last month by Water­loo Re­gion coun­cil, the $5.1-mil­lion pur­chase is be­ing ear­marked for a planned ex­ten­sion to the air­port’s cross­wind run­away, which the re­gion says is needed to im­prove cur­rent air ser­vice and at­tract new car­ri­ers.

The cur­rent cross­wind run­way, which acts as an al­ter­na­tive land­ing spot for air­craft dur­ing un­favourable wind con­di­tions, is too small to ac­com­mo­date some of the larger air­craft com­ing into Bres­lau, notes Rod Regier, the re­gion’s com­mis­sioner of plan­ning.

A strong cross­wind is enough to force the larger air­craft land­ing in Bres­lau to make costly di­ver­sions to other air­ports.

“The is­sue of the cross­wind run­way is a ser­vice is­sue re­gard­less of whether we have one flight or whether we have 20 flights a day. The other day, a WestJet flight was di­verted to Hamil­ton be­cause of a cross­wind on a land­ing. So we need to have it re­gard­less of the ser­vice we have,” said Regier. “The length­en­ing of run­way 14-32 (the cross­wind) is a mat­ter of mak­ing sure we can con­sis­tently de­liver a safe avi­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence to ev­ery­body.”

While the land has been pur­chased, there is no date set for con­struc­tion on the run­way ex­ten­sion. Ex­pen­di­tures on air­port in­fras­truc­ture are typ­i­cally tied to the air­port’s pas­sen­ger count, with the air­port hav­ing to hit cer­tain tar­gets be­fore it gets ad­di­tional fund­ing. With ev­ery quar­ter­mil­lion added to the pas­sen­ger-base, the air­port trig­gers a new de­vel­op­ment stage.

The ex­cep­tion, how­ever, is given for strate­gic in­vest­ments like land pur­chases.

The 212-acre pur­chase was for farm­land on the north end of the cross­wind run­way, bounded by Foun­tain Street on the west side, Menno Street on the north, and the air­port to the south and east. The ac­qui­si­tion fol­lowed two other pur­chases in the past year, in­clud­ing a $4.1-mil­lion pur­chase of a 144-acre plot on the south end.

“That land is on the southwest end of the air­port. It’s lo­cated be­tween Foun­tain Street and Kos­suth, and it is a pos­si­ble fu­ture lo­ca­tion for the ter­mi­nal build­ing. We’re cur­rently eval­u­at­ing a num­ber of op­tions for the fu­ture of the ter­mi­nal, and that was one pos­si­bil­ity,” ex­plained Reiger.

“In ad­di­tion, we wanted to make sure we’re able to con­trol the land from en­croach­ment. To the south, we will see some ad­di­tional ur­ban de­vel­op­ment be­tween Kos­suth and to­wards Cam­bridge,” he added. “We’ll see some res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment and some in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment down there, and we wanted to make sure that didn’t en­croach upon the air­port.”

The up­front ex­pen­di­tures on land, cou­pled with the yearly losses re­ported by the small air­port – amount­ing to a $6 mil­lion ex­pense, or 1.5 per cent of the tax levy – are ex­pected by re­gional staff to pay­off in the longer term.

Pas­sen­ger counts have fluc­tu­ated sig­nif­i­cantly over the years as well, peak­ing at 153,000 in 2015, be­fore drop­ping by 25,000 in 2016 af­ter the loss sched­uled Amer­i­can Air­lines flights to Chicago. The num­bers are a far-cry from the 250,000 pas­sen­gers needed for the next stage of de­vel­op­ment.

“How­ever, we’re pretty con­fi­dent that in the next year or two, we’re go­ing to be see­ing more air ser­vice. And the rea­son is that air ser­vice de­mand con­tin­ues to grow in south­ern On­tario,” said Regier. “We have Pear­son grow­ing at an as­ton­ish­ing rate in terms of its pas­sen­ger vol­ume. We have three ULCC (ul­tra-low cost car­ri­ers) cur­rently in ex­pan­sion or de­vel­op­ment mode, plus Swoop, which is the fourth one, which is owned by WestJet and is cur­rently fly­ing out of Hamil­ton.”

In­creas­ing de­mand at Pear­son air­port is ex­pected to have some spillover into smaller neigh­bour­ing air­ports as the Toronto air­port reaches its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, a rise in ULCC’s in Canada will likely ben­e­fit smaller air­ports as the in­ex­pen­sive car­ri­ers search for sav­ings that larger air­ports like Pear­son can’t of­fer

“So the na­ture of air traf­fic – air pas­sen­ger ser­vice – is chang­ing quite quickly right now in south­ern On­tario,” said Regier.

The 212 acres of farm­land are cur­rently be­ing rented out to pro­duc­ers while the Re­gion of Water­loo In­ter­na­tional Air­port looks to hit the 250,000 pas­sen­gers needed to be­gin the first de­vel­op­ment stage in its master plan.

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