Work will begin immediately to shut down one of the two runways at the downtown Edmonton City Centre Airport, after city council voted 10 to 3 Wednesday to begin a gradual closure of the facility.

The one runway could be closed as early as next year, with complete closure in 10 years or more as determined by city council.

In the meantime, city officials will begin negotiations with the adjacent Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to expand its campus on to airport lands.

The vice-president of the students' association at NAIT praised councillors for having the courage to make the decision to eventually close the downtown airport.

"We would like to expand our institution and currently there's … not a whole lot of options of where to expand to …. It makes more sense to have a consolidated campus all in one area at our main campus rather than having multiple campuses around the city which is kind of where we're sitting at right now," Tessa Cocchio said Thursday.


City councillor Tony Caterina debating the closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport at city hall on Wednesday. ((CBC))

Coun. Tony Caterina was one of the three councillors who voted against closing the airport.

"It leaves a lot of people hanging on both sides, which is exactly what we didn't want to do and I think the most critical part about this is that we've sent a message .... Edmonton council has sent a message to the rest of Alberta and into the Territories that we are not concerned about their concerns," Caterina said.

During public hearings held in June on the future of the airport, concerns were raised about medevac flights that come into the airport from the North.

Health officials addressed those concerns, saying helicopters can land at all the hospitals in the city as well as the international airport, 26 kilometres south of downtown Edmonton.