Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Different answers to the same questions leave us wondering: What's really behind the push for an alternate (north) entrance to Dallas Love Field (DAL)?
The Aviation Department, led by director Mark Duebner, has been toying with the idea of putting a new entrance to the airport since 2017. Their justifications have run the gamut: failed intersections, lower emissions, emergency access. In this post we want to explore the claim that an alternate passenger entry is needed for safety purposes as we know many major airports have a single entry and exit. Let’s see, LAX comes to mind.
Over the course of the last year, the Airport must have realized that its arguments for an alternate entrance in the face of a capped gate supply, a pandemic and depressed passenger numbers no longer makes sense. Since January, Mr. Duebner has been peddling the concept that the entrance is needed for emergency access and public safety. This the equivalent of a "for the children" plea when you can't win the argument another way. Who could possibly be against the children?
No one wants unsafe conditions or emergency vehicles with no place to go, but the insistence on using this as a catalyst for support is disingenuous. Here's why: Duebner has publicly admitted that they have not done a cost analysis for any of the possible solutions, including options they have discarded as unworkable. Without cost projections, something he's promised would be done after receiving a go-ahead from officials (nice tactic), one can't prove that the simplest option to address safety is most likely the cheapest. Residents and community members don't have a seat at this analysis table so here's our pot-luck contribution to this buffet of bunk.
Has the Airport really thought this through? There are many internal access roads and a perimeter road around Love Field inside the secure area of the airport. This means that only authorized personnel or those who've passed through a security check can access it. In the event of an aircraft emergency, the airport has vehicles on standby inside the field. This is standard equipment. If an emergency occurs outside the secure area of the airport, inside the curbside area of the terminal, let's say, then the airport has its own police force to respond. How about a worst case scenario where an evacuation of the terminal is required? Well, no sane plan will ask evacuees to run to the valet stand or parking garage to go get their cars and then jam up the Kelleher/Mockingbird intersection, or any roadway for that matter.
Duebner has argued that emergency responders need quick access and having another entrance will achieve this. Unless this is secretly a ploy to get a monster truck rally at DAL, it begs the question as to how emergency vehicles intend to bypass the traffic jam at any given entrance, whether the current one or a proposed magical bridge* over Bachman Lake. The logical approach seems to be to provide an access point for authorized vehicles only. This already exists. We see it everywhere. Every FAA regulated airport has a vetted and approved security plan. But not to be outdone by the obvious, Duebner has fired back that the airport doesn't have a way to quickly clear the first responders entering into a secure area which is required by the FAA and TSA. Seems like this is an issue remedied by a certification process, proper badging and the TSA equivalent of a TollTag, not by paving over water and disrupting a long-neglected community's park. Here is Duebner's response when asked about it at the July 23rd virtual meeting with the public on the alternate entrance:
Q: For a 1st responder entry how about an entrance at the back door of the fire station exclusive for security personnel?
A: We have 2 fire stations. A structural station for the community and an aircraft rescue/fire station on the north (Station 21). There are pathways that we could use in an emergency. The issue is the back side of that fire station is an AOA [Airport Operations Area] with access for trained, badged personnel. No one in station 42 has access to the gate behind the station. No police or fire can access the airport areas. They would have to be trained, badged or escorted by DAL personnel/police/fire. Public road access to the airport is the preferred route.
Well, maybe preferred by the airport but embarking on a project costing undetermined millions of dollars when you can let vetted first responders through a back door – literally – seems counterintuitive. There must be another motive. Take a look at the satellite imagery to see where the structural (community) fire station is and look at all the land taken up by The Parking Spot and other facilities. There can be small adjustments made to the roadways and access, yet the argument is that a whole new entrance is needed for safety. Look closely. We've colored it for you. Access to the secure roadway is already paved from the fire house to what appears to be a security gate. Somebody thought it was a good idea to give fire and rescue quick access to the airfield. If safety is the airport's go-to argument, then why is this no longer a good idea?
An airport industry expert that we interviewed was shocked that Love Field’s plans would include options that would put an entrance to the airport in between two active runways. He said that this would be a major security issue and that it should not be even considered. This made us wonder whether Love Field has even received guidance from the FAA on their proposed short-list, or at least a caveat as to what would not be acceptable. We know that the community has not been included in any ideation talks for a new entrance but we were very surprised to learn that the Park and Recreation Department was not even consulted about the alternate entry options being considered, even though the remaining choices affect Bachman Lake Park – in some cases severely. It makes us wonder now if the FAA has even been included.
We'll have more about the Park Board meeting with Love Field in a separate post. No community, no Park Board, quite possibly no governing agencies, so again we ask: just who is at these meetings of the minds making these recommendations for an alternate entrance? We didn't get an answer the last time we brought it up, so we're going to keep trying to find the answer.
Safety first? Apparently, only when it fits the narrative.
*Duebner recently took exception to criticism suggesting that a bridge over Bachman Lake would slice the park in half. He instead insisted that a bridge "wouldn't go through the park but over the park." AYKM?
Be sure and bookmark our landing page for the alternate (north) entrance issue as we will be providing more details on meetings and deeper dives into some of the arguments.