Tucson airport board agrees to new gate for Air Guard base
By DAVID WICHNER | The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson | Published: August 2, 2018
TUCSON, Ariz. (Tribune News Service) — After years of negotiations, the Tucson Airport Authority has given tentative approval to a plan by the Air National Guard to build a new main gate to the 162nd Wing base at Tucson International Airport.
On Wednesday, the Airport Authority board unanimously approved a letter of intent supporting the Air Guard’s plan, which will allow installation of a new main security gate on South Park Avenue just south of West Valencia Road.
The current main gate and security checkpoint at 1700 W. Valencia Road — in use since the base opened in 1958 — is too small and does not meet current security standards, creating a traffic jam as vehicles are checked during peak periods when airmen report for duty, the Air Guard says.
The Air Force Civil Engineering Center has issued a draft environmental assessment giving the go-ahead to the gate project, along with a plan to move an F-16 fighter training unit of the Taiwan Air Force to the 162nd from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.
The gate project will involve about 18 acres at the northeast end of the airport and require the demolition of a hangar used by Aerovation Inc., a Tucson-based company that provides aircraft modifications, engineering and related services to the aviation and defense industries, near the corner of Park and Valencia.
The airport authority said the plan is the result of six years of negotiations between TAA, the Air Guard and Aerovation, as airport officials worked to keep Aerovation as a tenant.
The company has about 70 employees including engineers and designers and has invested more than $1.5 million in improvements to the hangar property as part of a long-term lease, the airport said.
After a military security review found issues with the Valencia gate in 2012, the National Guard Bureau and TAA agreed on a plan to relocate the base entrance to a site off South Park Avenue that didn’t affect the Aerovation hangar, the airport said.
But after further study, the Air Guard developed a new plan including demolition of the hangar, raising concerns among airport officials.
Under the new agreement, the Air Guard will pay for replacement facilities for Aerovation on a site off East Aero Parkway on the airfield’s southwest side. Cost estimates were not available.
“A great deal of credit for the success of Aerovation comes from doing business here in Tucson with the Tucson Airport Authority, and we are grateful that so much work has gone into assuring our future here,” Aerovation President Paul Finn said in a news release.
Bonnie Allin, president and CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority, called the new agreement “a long time coming.”
The Airport Authority supported the Guard’s desire for a new gate early on, but didn’t want to lose a “valued tenant” in Aerovation, Allin said.
“The goal was to make sure both organizations were accommodated in a manner that allows for their continued growth and contributions to the community,” she said.
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