Cohen Supports Hobby Expansion

May. 24, 2012The Houston Chronicle

Councilwoman Ellen Cohen did not attend Wednesday’s celebration/announcement of a deal between Southwest Airlines and the city of Houston to expand Hobby Airport to prepare it for international flights. Cohen was serving as an honorary pallbearer for Maconda Brown O’Connor, who died Saturday.

Cohen said she wouldn’t have been at Hobby on Wednesday even if she had been free. It was an event to announce a memorandum of understanding, and that memorandum wasn’t ready at the event.

Now that Cohen has seen the MOU, she’s on board. Cohen told me a few minutes ago that she called Mayor Annise Parker just before noon to inform her that she will vote in support of Hobby expansion, which is likely to be on next week’s agenda.

Cohen said she did some of her own research to consider whether dividing international traffic between two airports harms the local economy, as United Airlines contends. And she concluded after talking to someone familiar with the bifurcation in another market whom she would not identify that it works out.

“While I’m not altogether happy with everything, I will support the expansion,” Cohen told me she said to Parker.

“What I’m not happy about is I hope that United will see its fortunes in the skies over Houston and that they will continue to invest certainly in Terminal B,” Cohen said.

United has said Hobby expansion will jeopardize a planned billion-dollar expansion of Terminal B at Bush Intercontinental Airport, of which United’s part would be nearly $700 million.

But, in the end, with the projected growth of Houston, Cohen said, Houston can support two international airports.

Cohen’s announcement brings to at least 10 the number of votes on the 17-member Council in favor of expansion.