Howard County is considering building a general aviation airport, the county planning director said yesterday.
Planner Joseph Rutter said that the county still is interested in having Tipton Army Airfield at Fort Meade used as a general aviation airport for the region. He added that the county would hire a consultant to study the feasibility, cost and location of a Howard County airport as well.
The study is slated to cost as much as $124,000, financed mostly by federal funds.
"The consultant will look countywide at potential airport sites and is going in with a totally open mind," Mr. Rutter said.
However, he said that the options are limited by the extent of development in the eastern end of the county, including the Elkridge area and parts of Columbia which are in the flight path of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The county's proposal said that an existing private airport, Hayes Airfield off Sheppard Lane, will be evaluated, as will other potential sites.
The study also will assess the demand for recreational and instructional flying as well as for cargo traffic, Mr. Rutter said.
O. James Lighthizer, state transportation secretary, recently wrote Howard Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray to say that if "funds are available" and the airport study results are favorable, his department would support a Howard County airport.
Mr. Rutter said that the county plans to hire a consultant within the next month or two, and should receive a report on the findings by next April.
The local pilots' association has lobbied for the past several years for the study, claiming there was a need for a general aviation airport in the county.
Carl Balser, the county's chief of comprehensive and transportation planning, said that the study reflects a nationwide dilemma in which "regional airports are becoming overloaded with air traffic and there is a need for some relief at the local levels."