Proposed fuel tank site concerns Austin residents, public meeting to be held

Along US 183, a section of airport-owned land has sat empty, but that may change starting in the spring.

As part of the 2040 Master Plan for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, construction of two new jet fuel tanks has been proposed for an area between Metropolis Drive and McCall Lane.

According to ABIA spokesperson Sam Haynes, most airports have an average of 5-7 days worth of fuel. ABIA currently has a 2-3 day supply on hand.

"When we think about future air service and future flights, especially those long-haul flights that are transatlantic flights, we’re really seeing the pinch for added fuel capacity," said Haynes. 

The need for two new fuel tanks was highlighted right after the weekend F1 came into town. The Monday following, three commercial flights had to be diverted to another airport because of lack of fuel available in Austin.

According to Haynes, the specific location was chosen for a few reasons, including its proximity to an existing fuel tank. The two facilities will be connected via an underground transfer line. 

Other parts of airport-owned land are being reserved for more anticipate developments needed in order to keep up with a growing number of passengers and flights.

Just this past week, ABIA announced the addition of a new international carrier, Virgin Atlantic.

However, just across the highway, some residents have felt left in the dark and have concerns about health and safety.

The Jimenez family has owned their home on McCall Lane for 30 years. Vanessa Jimenez says they only heard about the airport’s plans when a nearby business owner started going door-to-door with information.

Adding to the confusion and unknowns– a language barrier.

"It’s been pretty scary especially for the Spanish-speaking neighbors," said Jimenez, whose father doesn’t speak English. "They feel like they aren’t being heard." 

Haynes said outreach efforts began as early as 2017, and specific addresses were notified last year.

"But what we’re really hearing from the community is that they weren’t aware of these efforts," said Haynes. "So we’re going back to them, bringing more information and really working with the community and working with our council office."

Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes spearheaded efforts to improve communication in the fall. Her office represents that area of Austin.

"My office first got involved when we heard from community members that live near the area," said Councilmember Fuentes, District 2. "It became very evident from those conversations that there were still a lot of lingering questions." 

She facilitated a couple community engagement meetings and crafted a resolution that Austin City Councilmembers passed in December. The resolution asked for review of other sites, an environmental assessment and better communication.

"Folks have wanted to know, ‘What are the impacts to our air, what are the impacts to our water and what are the safety risks associated with a jet fuel storage facility?’" 

Residents will have the opportunity to learn more at a public, virtual meeting planned for Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. Questions can be submitted ahead of time here

According to information shared by ABIA, two 1.5 million gallon tanks are planned for construction, with an additional two tanks planned for long-term development.

The tanks will be placed in a spill containment structure with a corrosion detection system to notify operators before a spill. The project has undergone an environmental assessment that has received federal review and approval by the FAA.

Construction is expected to start in Spring 2022.

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