Is there a solution to the F-35 fight?

A corner of the current third runway south of Gowen Field, via Google Maps

A corner of the current third runway south of Gowen Field, via Google Maps

The standoff between proponents and opponents of the basing of a squadron of F-35 jets at Gowen Field has been particularly spirited.

Those for the jets tout the economic impact.

Those against them say they are too noisy.

The two sides aren't engaging with each other much these days - and are instead engaged in a heated war of words.

But is there a common sense solution to all this?

Probably. But as with many things in life - it would take a truckload of cash.

The Third Way

So far, much of the battle has centered on two options: bring the F-35s here and base them at Gowen -- or don't.

But one item in the Boise Airport's 20-year master plan could solve it: a third runway.

Currently, a takeoff and landing strip in the desert south of Boise is not connected to the rest of the taxiways and airport infrastructure - but if the infrastructure investment was made, it would allow the jets to take off in a place much further from homes and businesses that would likely be impacted by the F-35.

"It would certainly mitigate impact," City of Boise Communications Director Mike Journee said in an interview with BoiseDev.

The additional runway could be the magic bullet in the battle -- and would move almost the entire 65db noise contour on to property owned by the Boise Airport.

"We have a space for a third runway, we know where it would go if it were to come to fruition," Journee said. "We know in the long run it would be good for the airport and the city."

Challenges to overcome

The biggest challenge, aside from money, is the current Gowen Road which slices between the existing airport and the third runway area. Taxiways would have to go under or over Gowen - or the road would have to be relocated entirely.

"How you navigate that adds numbers on the final price tag," Journee said. "There’s still a lot of things to define. "

Cash - and who would front the money - is also a big challenge.

"For something like this to happen, we’re talking a very hefty price tag," Journee said. "I’ve heard in the neighborhood of one hundred million."

He notes that the City of Boise wouldn't be able to finance a third runway project alone, and would need help from the State of Idaho as well as federal dollars.

Timeline mismatch

Even if another runway is added to the Boise Airport/Gowen Field complex - it won't happen before the likely start of a potential F-35 mission in Boise.

"We are not going to have a runway down before the current mission that’s being considered by USAF," Journee said.

But - the idea of adding the infrastructure could be a way to help solve a complicated dilemma. 

"I think the mayor would say that in the longterm it makes sense to have a third runway," he said. "These noise mitigating factors are a big reason for that. In the fact that long term that makes sense."