Greene Plans Involve More than “Mere” Runway Expansion

In an otherwise good piece explaining the reason why Mississippi just got a new Toyota car plant and Rhode Island did not, ProJo columnist Ed Achorn writes:

Its culture of NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) is so bad that the state must engage in a prolonged struggle merely to extend the main runway at the airport, a crucial engine of business.

Well, that airport is in MY backyard (though my home isn’t in any danger) and, as the ProJo reported on Saturday, the plans involve a lot more than “merely…extend[ing] the main runway.”

If the main runway at T.F. Green Airport is expanded, it will swallow at least 204 houses, up to 53 businesses and dozens of acres of wetlands, according to a draft summary of a Federal Aviation Administration report released yesterday, examining the consequences of expansion.
Expansion would also increase noise pollution and cut the city’s tax base by as much as $2.2 million a year. On the flip side, it is predicted to generate $138 million in business revenue within the next 13 years…
Depending on which, if any, option is ultimately selected, the draft summary shows the following:
•204 to 339 houses would be taken
•10 to 32 acres of wetlands would be taken
•6 to 53 businesses would be displaced
•36 to 60 houses would experience such an increase in the level of noise that they would become eligible for a volunteer land-acquisition program
The FAA has not ranked any one alternative above another, saying it does not plan to choose a preferred scenario until the summer.
But the release of the consequences summary yesterday signals the beginning of what is expected to be a protracted battle between expansion critics — many of them at the city level — and the FAA.
“No matter what you do, there will be adverse effects,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said. “All the options will encroach on different parts of the city.”
Warwick’s principal planner was more forthright. “Whatever alternative you look at, you are devastating either neighborhoods and family homes, or destroying wetlands,” said William J. DePasquale. “It seems like the impact of all this expansion is disproportionately set on the community.”
City officials say they’ve known for years what expansion would do to their community. They expressed frustration yesterday that the FAA is only now recognizing those impacts.

Believe me, I realize that there are long-term economic benefits to be had by expanding the airport, but at what price? The airport already bisects Warwick and most of the proposed plans would only make it worse, which would be detrimental to the quality of life in the community–my community–as a whole.
Yes, I know that (to paraphrase) the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, but here is the fundamental problem: why is the State hellbent-for-leather on putting an international-quality airport in the middle of a suburban community? The fact that the State chose to develop it’s major airport there in the first place belies Rhode Island’s historical penchant for having a lack of foresight. Unfortunately, at this time, there is really no other plausible choice for making it possible for Coast-to-Coast or international flights via Rhode Island. (Quonset, for instance, has it’s own problems and I don’t see any way that our cash-strapped State could possibly build a new airport).
At the very least, the citizen’s of Warwick deserve a chance to weigh-in on the plan they favor the most (see the extended entry) should this inevitable “march of progress” proceed. If the State is insistent on expanding the runway, then they are stuck dealing with a community that is wary of losing even more of it’s identity via what amounts to a large scale exercise of eminent domain. How would Achorn respond if the same thing was happening in his town?

As reported by the ProJo, here are the five options for expanding the main runway:

•Extend the main runway mostly to the south. It would require that Main Avenue be tunneled under the runway, but would not require relocation of Airport Road to the north. It would require taking a substantial number of houses in the Greenwood area, and some commercial areas at the corner of Post and Airport roads. It would also have substantial impact on the Buckeye Brook wetlands.
•Extend the main runway mostly to the north. It would require moving Airport Road, but not Main Avenue, as well as taking many houses in the Spring Green neighborhood, and would impact Buckeye Brook.
•Extend the runway both north and south, requiring tunneling Main Avenue under the runway and moving Airport Road, but would not affect the Buckeye Brook wetlands to the north and would take some houses in the Greenwood neighborhood.
•Extend the runway primarily south, to avoid moving the east end of Airport Road. It would not affect the Buckeye Brook wetlands, but would require tunneling under Main Avenue and taking some houses in Greenwood.
•Extend the runway both north and south. This alternative requires less relocation of Airport Road and limits effects on wetlands. It would require tunneling under Main Avenue and taking some houses both north and south of the runway.

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17 years ago

Your post sounds pretty NIMBY-ish to me, Marc.
Maybe you should move.

Marc Comtois
17 years ago

Greg, of all of the things that go on in this state, the airport is way down on the list of what would cause me to move.
I didn’t say I WASN’T being a NIMBY, btw. But my real point is that Achorn was being a little too reductionist with his “merely a lengthening of the runway” line.
Besides, I’d think you would be against state government telling a city and it’s residents that, “Sorry, it’s really all for the best, you’re moving out. Thanks for playing.”
Or are you only socially libertarian? 😉

17 years ago

The problem is that TF Greene is in pretty much EVERYBODY’s back yard. What–half the population of the state lives within a 10 mile radius? (I’m guessing).
So, I’m with Marc, even though I DON’T live in Warwick. I understand the business implications. But an airport in the middle of a heavily-populated area makes no sense whatsoever. There comes a point when you have to decide what your priorities are: expansion at any cost, or selling your quality of life down the river for 30 pieces of silver.

17 years ago

“Besides, I’d think you would be against state government telling a city and it’s residents that, “Sorry, it’s really all for the best, you’re moving out. Thanks for playing.””
Unless you moved in to that home before the airport was there, you should have been aware of its presence when you bought the home and you were likely aware of the possibility that someday it would expand to facilitate ‘grown up’ planes.
I consider this to be very different than living someplace for years and being tossed out by eminent domain so Wal-Mart can expand.
Caveat Emptor.

Marc Comtois
17 years ago

Moved here about 8 years ago and grown up planes were going in and out. But I don’t recall ever hearing anything about the State wanting to expand Greene so it can accommodate coast-to-coast or international flights at that time. Besides, I grew up in a house that was in the direct flight path of large planes (including B-52s) and don’t have a particular problem with the noise. But that was in a rural area and the runway was already 2 miles long. Didn’t need to be expanded.
Now to the real point. You said:
I consider this to be very different than living someplace for years and being tossed out by eminent domain so Wal-Mart can expand.
Apparently you are having a hard time recognizing that I’m not personalizing this thing. Take me out of it. What about the people that did grow up around the STATE airport and now could be “tossed out by eminent domain so [Greene] can expand?”
These people have watched the STATE airport grow larger and seen neighborhoods disappear. They’ve gone along so far, but they also have a right to argue against further expansion if they think that enough is enough?
Again, to repeat, Achorn’s comment implied that this was only a mere runway expansion and that a bureaucracy or insiders or whatever were holding it up. In truth, it’s real people who value their quality of life. If they lose the argument, well, so be it. But for Achorn to so cavalierly dismiss them rankled me.

17 years ago

I just think you lose credibility in arguing for economic development in the state when you then argue that the state shouldn’t expand the airport to international size for the sake of a couple of hundred houses. Those people can move. It’s not like they don’t have to be killed inside the homes. They will be properly compensated or they will cry bloody murder and I’ll be one of the first ones in the neighborhood with the Castle Coalition picketing for them to either get what they deserve or get to stay.

17 years ago

I grew up next to the airport, and the house I lived in until I was 9 was torn down in the most recent round of airport expansion.
The big argument in favor of expansion is allowing West Coast nonstops to land at Green, but if my memory serves me right, the Patriots flew a charter out of Green nonstop to San Diego for the playoff game. Anybody recall how big a jet that was?

17 years ago

Let’s consider the true economic impact. RIAC projects $138 million in business revenue and $53 million in personal revenue by 2020. The cost of expanding the runway in any direction hasn’t been disclosed. It costs ~$100 million to buy the houses. It costs the city roughly $2 million/year in lost taxes. With the increased lung cancer rates around the airport, it seems there should be some economic impact of that, too. Hmm. Airport exapansion doesn’t seem to be an economic engine. It doesn’t even pass the cost/benefit test.

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