Milwaukee's Mitchell Field, which is so close to Chicago's airports that the most cost-effective way to get aircraft from Milwaukee to O'Hare might be to build a very long taxi-way, now may have to write off some of the taxpayer investment in having an international airport.
The gate shifts will cost the airport about $1.1 million, according to a Milwaukee County report. But shutting down Concourse E, the airport's smallest concourse, would save an unspecified amount of money, airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe said Friday.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy to reconfigure an airport as it was for Patrick McGinnis to sell half the tracks at Boston North Station to a parking-lot operator, or for The Pennsylvania Railroad to sell the air rights above Pennsylvania Station for a then state-of-the-art, now crappy sports arena.
US Airways is moving to Concourse D, which at 23 gates is the airport's largest concourse, according to a report to Michael Mayo, chairman of the County Board's transportation committee.

Those moves will help make that area more active, said the report, written by Frank Busalacchi, county transportation director. Concourse D has seen a decline in activity since Frontier Airlines reduced its operations from a peak of 87 daily flights to just seven daily flights.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines, which now owns AirTran Airways, is moving its operations from Concourse D to Concourse C, where the AirTran gates are located, to consolidate those operations, the report said.

Finally, United Airlines, which now owns Continental Airlines, wants to consolidate those operations on Concourse E.

However, that would leave United as the only carrier in that concourse, which has just 10 gates. Airport managers want United to instead move to Concourse D, the report said.

For all the concourse shifts to occur, the airport needs to expand security systems, relocate passenger loading bridges and make other changes, costing an estimated $1.1 million, the report said. The county-owned airport is funded mainly by fees and lease payments from the airlines and concession operators, as well as parking revenue.

A proposal to recommend closing Concourse E has not yet been submitted to the County Board, Rowe said, but is being considered by airport managers.
A number of commenters on the report suggest that the airport do more to encourage intermodal connections.  There is an Amtrak station nearby.  Now, if passengers could get to the airport from Green Bay or Oconomowoc or Eau Claire on 110 mph trains, the city's experience attracting Illinoisans to fly out of Milwaukee might work well with local residents.

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