February 23, 2015
Jacob Long, First Coast News
People on Jacksonville's Westside might want to start bracing themselves for an influx of traffic.
Beginning in June, an unknown number of military airplanes are temporarily moving from Naval Air Station Jacksonville to Cecil Airport.
The U.S. Navy is leasing one million square feet of existing space at the Westside airport while it renovates its main runway at NAS JAX for the first time in decades.
It is expected the project will take at least a year to complete.
That means all the sailors, contractors, civilian staff and family members who typically commute to the NAS JAX will now be making their way to Cecil.
During a regularly scheduled board meeting of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority on Monday morning, CEO Steve Grossman provided an update on the transition process.
"We are really benefiting the Navy tremendously because if Cecil was not available, they'd have to relocate those squadrons to other bases across the country," Grossman said.
But, that doesn't mean there still won't be challenges.
"You never really know when people start coming to Cecil how they're really going to get there and how much congestion there might be," he said.
Grossman said the number one concern right now is successfully managing an increase in traffic.
He said that should be aided by existing infrastructure. "The roadways around Cecil are not very congested right now, so we think we have the capacity to handle it."
Grossman said an estimated 4,000 people currently work at Cecil.
An additional 4,000 from NAS JAX have been given special clearance to the airport during the transition period.
Grossman said the aviation authority is working with the Navy and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on plans to handle extra people, vehicles and security.
"It's really unknown how many people will be accessing Cecil on any given day, but we do have contingency plans. We will have staff and JSO will have officers out there to help facilitate traffic," he said.
Grossman praised the teamwork that's gone into the planning process over the last several months.
He said the community surrounding Cecil has also been extremely supportive. "One of the really great things about Cecil is how supportive people out there have been of all of our efforts, particularly with economic development."
The Navy has not publicly released the types of planes that are moving and how many.