Boeing’s proposal to Renton Airport a ‘welcome surprise’

It turns out that a proposal from Boeing to expand its 737 program at the Renton Airport could be the Hail Mary play Islanders were waiting for.

Last week, The Boeing Co. announced plans to lease another section of the Renton Airport for its successful 737 program to a group of Renton city officials. The plan to expand Boeing’s presence at the airport came as a surprise to Renton officials who were told a few years ago that Boeing would be downsizing its operations there.

“We received a preliminary request from Boeing which was a complete surprise for us,” said Preeti Shridhar, spokesperson for the city of Renton.

If Boeing enters a lease with Renton, it is likely the plans would negate the need for a curved approach around the Island. It would also kill the idea to construct a new corporate jet center to attract more business to the Renton Airport.

The proposal from Boeing may also nix the need for a noise study set to begin this month. Neither Renton nor Mercer Island knows what will come of the jointly-funded study until more information is heard about Boeing’s plans. Shridhar said the future of the noise study is unknown at this point. Joy Johnston, the communications coordinator of Mercer Island, said the city is awaiting more information from Renton before it makes any decision about the noise study.

Both city councils recently agreed to split the cost for a $130,000 noise study that would evaluate the potential impacts of five different proposed changes to the Renton Airport.

Earlier this month, representatives from the firm Harris, Miller, Miller and Hanson visited the Island to explain the noise study they were hired to complete. The study would produce noise impact models based on the five proposed designs of the Renton Airport.

Cristina McHugh, a spokesperson for Boeing, said the company is doing a feasibility study regarding the success of its 737 production. As part of the study, Boeing asked if space at the Renton Airport is available for lease.

“We are pleased with the success of the 737 program,” she said. “We are looking at lots of options right now but are also looking at how we can use our existing footprint,” McHugh said.

The proposal from Boeing would increase their presence, and the city of Renton plans to entertain that request, Shridhar said. Renton will now wait to hear more from Boeing and decide how that affects other layout plans proposed for the airport.

“The Boeing plans are now a part of the possible scenarios, which will be looked at again with the Boeing presence,” Shridhar said. “As we find out more, our intent is to work closely with Mercer Island and the residents of both cities.”

The idea to build a corporate jet center and redesign the airport came after Boeing announced it was not interested in renewing some leases with Renton. Now that Boeing is interested in the space, the city of Renton is listening. According to Shridhar, the city of Renton values its history and relationship with Boeing and looks forward to hearing more details about their plans.

“The city of Renton has a tradition of working closely and has a deep history that we value very much with Boeing,” she said.

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