COUNTYWIDE : County Votes to Join Airport Authority

County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley said Tuesday that he will try to persuade neighboring officials to choose San Bernardino County as home to a regional airport because he does not believe any workable sites exist in Orange County.

Riley will attend his first meeting today in Ontario as the county's representative to the Southern California Regional Airport Authority. After a years-long boycott, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to join the group and pay $1,000 in annual membership.

The supervisors rethought their position on joining SCRAA after the regional organization offered a spot on its board to a local group that wants to bring commercial flights to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Riley, a retired Marine Corps general, and other county officials have long opposed that idea.

Another factor in the reversal was the airport authority's reduction in its membership fees, which had been $20,000 several years ago, officials said.

"This was certainly a 180-degree change for the Board of Supervisors, but the situation had changed for us," Riley said. "Now we can get involved in the debate and join with everyone else to make this a regional effort."

Other members of the airport authority include the city of Los Angeles and the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside. The group is seeking a site to build a new regional airport in the Southland to relieve congestion.

Riley said he expects to "present my credentials" at today's meeting. From there, he will push for a regional airport at George Air Force Base near Victorville in San Bernardino County. The base is due to close within the next several years.

That idea ties in with the now-stalled proposal for a high-speed rail train between Anaheim and Las Vegas, which would include a stop at the base.

Because of existing congestion, it would be "infeasible for us to consider an airport" in Orange County, said Riley, whose work on the John Wayne Airport expansion project helped put his name on its new terminal.

"There just aren't any good sites in Orange County," he added.

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