Groundbreaking ceremony at Paine Field for new passenger terminal; Alaska Airlines vows 9 daily flights

EVERETT, Wash. -- Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at Everett's Paine Field for a new passenger terminal that promises to make commercial flights easier for Puget Sound residents who live north of Seattle.

“This is really a turning point for Snohomish County,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.

Alaska Airlines says 1 in 5 of its customers would benefit from a commercial airport north of Seattle as the population expands.

“Sea-Tac Airport is getting more and more full, and traffic is getting more and more difficult,” Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said.

The airline is the first to commit to at least nine flights daily from Paine Field, transporting about 1,000 passengers per day starting in the fall of 2018.

“Turns out this may become really popular, and we grow over time,” Tilden said.

The opportunities on the horizon are invigorating for stakeholders but you don’t have to go far to find Mukilteo residents hoping to keep the project grounded.

“The noise -- I don’t want to wake up in the morning at 4 a.m. and cannot fall back asleep,” resident Lynn Ring said.

Living close to Paine Field, Ring is used to planes flying over her home but she worries about what daily commercial flights would mean for property values and overall quality of life.

Propeller Airports is leasing the space from the county. CEO Brett Smith says that, legally, restrictions cannot be put on when they can fly planes. However, the private company says they will voluntarily restrict flights at inconvenient times. On Monday, Smith said he would try to fly planes starting around 6 a.m. to 9.p.m.

“I really believe nobody will notice this, considering the heavy equipment that flies out of here all day long anyway,” Smith said.

But the environmental footprint is such a concern for the city of Mukilteo that the city is still fighting against the terminal as of Monday’s groundbreaking. The city is hoping the state Supreme court will stop all progress on the project -- progress that supporters say has more benefits than harm to our growing region.

“With two flourishing passenger terminal airports, that is the day we decided to be a global powerhouse,” Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib said.

Alaska Airlines has not determined what destinations to fly to but the airline is expected to fly to five to six different cities.

Propeller Airports will pay the county $25 million in rent over the term of the agreement to lease and operate the space for the terminal.

The company says the two-gate terminal will have a ‘mid-century’ look. Smith says they are getting 'tremendous' interest from other airlines about the possibility of providing service at Paine Field.