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.