Revised Airport Expansion Plan on the Table
The airport corporation yesterday voted to study a plan that would expand the runway from its current 7,166 feet to 8,700 feet – a reduction from the 9,350 listed in previous proposals. That’s under a modified version of the plan known as “Option B” – one of five plans that had originally been under consideration.…and Cynthia Needham of the Projo…
Still on the table is the original Option B, which would take the runway to the full 9,350 feet. The airport corporation also hasn’t ruled out calling off runway expansion entirely. No other options are currently being considered.
If the airport corporation decides to go with the 8,700 foot extension, it would save $69 million on the overall program, $68 million in relocating Airport Road, Lurie said. Only 152 homes would be acquired, nearly cutting that acquisition in half. Commercial acquisitions would stay nearly the same, with 71 being acquired. The number of additional passengers would drop to 5.9 million, with 91 percent of the demand for nonstop flights to the West Coast being fulfilled.
There 8,700 foot extension and the 8,300 foot extension plans are similar – but only 79 percent of the demand for nonstop flights to the West Coast would be met, Lurie said. The number of additional passengers and commercial acquisitions would largely stay the same, and there would be 19 fewer homes acquired. The airport corporation opted not to pay for a plan to study the 8,300 foot extension option.
The scaled-back, 8,700-foot proposal would extend the runway to the south of the airport — to avoid significant impact on the wetlands [to the north of the airport]. But instead of burying Main Avenue to create space for federally mandated safety zones at the runway’s edge, this plan calls for a graded runway, essentially, a runway that slopes up, so planes take off well above street level. It’s a creative way of adhering to federal safety codes, while fitting runways into congested areas. FAA officials cited several other airports in the United States with similarly constructed runways.
The state Airport Corporation voted last night to spend $500,000 to study the shorter expansion option. That analysis is expected to be completed in the fall.
The FAA says 8,700 feet is long enough to accommodate about 91 percent of planes that travel nonstop to the West Coast, including the Boeing 737-500 series, considered “the workhorse” of the industry and a preferred model for airline giants such as Southwest and United. Anything shorter than 8,700 feet would prevent that fleet from making the nonstop coast-to-coast trip, said Airport Corporation President Mark Brewer.
The second plan still under consideration is the sole remaining 9,350 proposal. That option calls for lengthening the runway to the north of the airport, thus relocating Airport Road and scooping up many houses in the Spring Green neighborhood. It also significantly impacts the Buckeye Brook.