News Article - February 21, 2011


  TINICUM — When it comes to defending your home, you can never do too much. That’s the attitude of Tinicum resident Dave McCann, president of Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco, a grassroots organization opposed to Philadelphia International Airport’s controversial expansion plan. Along with several other members of the group, McCann is drafting an appeal to the Federal Aviation Administration’s record of decision, which supports the airport’s proposed $5.2 billion expansion program. McCann’s appeal is being submitted in addition to an appeal already being drafted by national aviation attorney Barbara Lichman on behalf of Tinicum Township officials. “It’s very difficult to compile everything together because there is so much to attack it on,” McCann said.

   A major difference between his appeal and Lichman’s is that his will focus primarily on what he considers to be the airport’s flawed project goal. Also, Lichman is being compensated by the township to the tune of $300 an hour, and has already been paid about $3,000, township officials said. McCann, on the other hand, is working for free. Much of the appeal will be based on an Oct. 11, 2010, speech given by President Barack Obama in front of the White House’s Rose Garden following a closed-door meeting with several state governors and the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, regarding the status of nation’s infrastructure. During the speech, Obama discussed the importance of a bipartisan approach to growing and improving transportation systems.

   “Our infrastructure is woefully inefficient and outdated. For years, we have deferred tough decisions. Today, our aging system of highways and byways hinders our economic growth,” the president said in the speech. “He said we need to focus less on our short-sighted political gains and more on our long-term economic priorities,” said McCann. “We want to appeal to that and say, ‘Look, these people are doing exactly what you said should not be going on.’” The FAA’s final environmental-impact statement defined the project purpose as enhancing airport capacity at Philadelphia International Airport in order to accommodate current and future aviation demand in the Philadelphia metropolitan area during all weather conditions. However, McCann said this purpose leaves out the option of utilizing other area airports or transportation systems to help lessen delays.

   His appeal makes heavy use of a 2008 Government Accountability Office report that stated Philadelphia airport officials said they did not want to support federal efforts, including regional airport planning, which could lead to losing or diverting flights from their airport because the city of Philadelphia did not want to lose revenue. “That’s a clear confirmation that this is nothing more than a short-sighted political priority,” McCann said of the expansion plan. When reached by phone Friday, FAA spokesman Jim Peters declined to comment on Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco’s appeal. Tinicum Commissioners President Thomas Giancristoforo said he supported Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco’s decision to file an appeal separate of the township. “I believe they have the right to do it and I think it’s proper for them to do it,” Giancristoforo said. Both McCann and Lichman have 30 days from the FAA’s signing of the record of decision to submit their appeal, putting the due date Feb. 26. Lichman said her appeal would focus on the extensive environmental damage that could occur if the expansion plan is carried out.

   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection all had serious issues with the FAA’s record of decision, she said. “There were comments from those agencies that they were not happy, right up to Dec. 28,” Lichman said in a previous interview. While McCann’s home is not directly in the sights of the FAA, 72 other homes are. The expansion plan calls for the demolishing of 72 homes and 80 businesses in the township, and filling in 23 acres of waterways and 24.5 acres of the Delaware River. It would also result in the loss of 82 acres of wetlands. The FAA previously said restoration of wetlands and waterways would occur in phases as the project progresses.

   According to airport officials, the purpose of the capacity enhancement program is to accommodate current and future aviation demand in the metropolitan area during all weather conditions. The plan would reduce the amount, length and cost of delays, as well as the airport’s contribution to delays nationwide. The enhancement plan would enable the airport to accommodate an additional 1.2 million passengers by 2025. It will result in four parallel runways and one crosswind runway, with one runway being added and two runways being extended to the east.

Source - Daily Times