City Hall

Quick, Robin, to the Vertiport! Sixteen Years Later, City Finds Use for $24 Mil Landing Pad.

There are any number of interesting and important items on the council's agenda this week -- like the latest suggestions for regulating neighborhood farmers markets (which I'm gonna pass around this morning when I head over to the White Rock Local Market), the proposed budget for street services in the coming fiscal year and a further look at three money-making proposals intended to offset budget shortfalls, including a requirement that all solid waste in the city must land in the McCommas Landfill (which could considerably shorten its lifespan). We'll get to those tomorrow and Monday.

Till then, this novelty item: You may be unaware that in 1994, the city of Dallas spent $23.9 million (which included a $17.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration) to construct a four-acre vertiport adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center. Downtown landing pads for so-called vertical and/or short take-off and landing aircraft (and, ya know, helicopters) were all the rage back in the early '90s, and Dallas's -- the first of its kind -- was designed to hold five V-22 Ospreys comfortably. But "demand never materialized for use of the Vertiport," according to a Transportation and Environment Committee briefing scheduled for Monday. Why? Well, for starters, it "lacked basic services." Like, oh, a gas station. And an aircraft maintenance crew. And: The lighting's crap -- as in, you can't land an aircraft after sunset. And: The spiral ramp intended for fire trucks is, says here, "has too tight a radius to use." And: The control tower's too low.

Let's put it this way: Fort Worth's considering building its own heliport. And according to its latest look-see, Dallas uses its vertiport 50 times a month. On the other hand, Garland's city-owned HeliPlex runs about 100 operations out of there a day. And it's the very model of awesome. Dallas's, on the other hand, became little more than a place to show off helicopters during helicopter conventions -- a $23.9 million display case.

But the city thinks it needs to do something about the Veriport and pronto: There's a proposal to spend $137,510 to bring the thing up to snuff by January 2011. Why then? C'mon: "To ensure the Vertiport will be operational 24-hours a day for Super Bowl."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky