News Article - June 09 2006

Opposition grows over airspace plans
  "The noise is making me nuts," chiropractor Edward Burstein said of the roar of passenger jets flying over his Mendham Township home. Mendham's Dick Brede is also worried about more air pollution while another Mendham resident, Jenny Gemberling, doesn't think the federal government will ever consider residents' concerns about a plan to reroute jetliners to lower altitudes over Morris County and elsewhere around the region.

   The three are among many who have joined a string of local, state and federal officials and organizations opposed to a plan by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to redesign the airspace over a 31,000 square-mile, five-state area that includes 29 million people. The FAA's New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign proposal has been in the works for more than a decade and has cost millions. Federal officials had said they were in the final stages before choosing a redesign after they held public hearings in March. But on Wednesday, May 30, officials said they were extending the period for public comment on the air redesign proposals to July 1.

   The public comment period had been scheduled to end June 1 but the FAA decided to extend the period based on the numerous requests it received from elected officials and others who sought additional time to study and assess the noise impacts of the project on their communities, said an FAA statement. The FAA plans have drawn the ire of Gov. Jon Corzine, U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with the Morris County Freeholders and a grass roots organization that has been fighting redesign plans for more than 10 years, New Jersey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise (NJCAAN). Virtually all the groups and officials outside of the FAA have favored a plan to route planes over the Atlantic Ocean, on their way to the major airports. The so-called ocean routing plan has been essentially ruled out by the FAA because the agency has deemed it too costly. Opponents have said that the other plans under consideration would bring considerably more air traffic at lower altitudes over Morris County and elsewhere in the region.

Added Traffic Feared

Burstein, whose practice is in Berkeley Heights, said he was most concerned with the health effects of added noise. He said recent studies have shown relationships between heart attack rates and noise. "As a doctor, my issue is they (FAA) are not taking health concerns into account," said Burstein. Burstein said he has been writing area state and federal legislators and advising his patients to do likewise to complain about the proposed new airline routes. "I'm concerned that the noise will be dramatically louder and people will wake up but it will be too late," Burstein said.

   Brede of Brookfield Way said he already has noticed an increase in air traffic. "I see more soot and fallout from pollution and I think a lot of it comes from the engines," Brede said. Brede said the FAA should boost airline ticket costs if that's what it would take to make the ocean routing plan viable. But he said he was not optimistic the FAA will listen to the public. "The FAA seems to be immune to any laws," Brede said. Gemberling of Talmadge Road first became concerned with the FAA plans when she was a member of the borough Environmental Commission five years ago. "It never seemed like the FAA paid attention to public input," said Gemberling. "Ocean routing has always been something they (FAA) have resisted. The FAA hasn't given a good enough reason to show why ocean routing isn't tenable"

   Gemberling said increasing noise from overhead jets arriving at the international airports as well as the smaller regional airports takes away one of the main reasons people move to the Morris County suburbs. "If you have so many jets overhead you're not getting the benefits you thought you would by moving here," she said. Robert Belzer of Millburn, president of NJCAAN, said the FAA's favored proposal would create extended and lower flight patterns over the area. "The plan makes it longer and lower," said Belzer. He said the FAA's favored proposal also would permit dual arrivals, with planes landing in parallel runways. Meanwhile, holding patterns also would be narrowed to allow more planes to the airports,. Belzer said the FAA has not yet disclosed the locations of proposed new holding patterns. He said he was hopeful the FAA would consider a proposal made by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to re-route approaching planes over the Hudson River. Belzer said the FAA extended the public comment period largely because residents of Bergen County determined that the FAA's environmental impact statement did not disclose areas of Bergen County that would be affected by the proposed redesign.

   Barbara Frawley of Boonton Township, coordinator of the Morris County Coalition Against Aircraft Noise, said the FAA plan would boost capacity at the major airports by 5 to 7 percent. She said this wasn't enough to warrant the millions being spent by the FAA and that the FAA's real goal is to build another international airport in the area. Written comments on the FAA proposals can continue to be submitted to: Steve Kelley, FAA-NAR, c/o Michael Merrill, 12005 Sunrise Valley Road, Reston, Va, 20191. Comments can also be sent by e-mail to Twenty one airports are included within the redesign area, with a particular focus placed on air traffic operations at five major airports: Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport in New Jersey; John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York; and Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania.

   The four airspace redesign alternatives under consideration are: Take no action; modifications to existing airspace; ocean routing airspace; and integrated airspace alternative. The FAA will select a preferred alternative after the public comment ends and after it has reviewed comments it receives on the potential environmental impact of the proposals. . To date, the agency has received more than 400 comments. The final environmental impact statement is expected to be released at the end of the year, an FAA statement said.

The FAA statement explained the proposals including:

The future no action alternative assumes no changes to the existing airspace. Under this alternative, the airspace will operate as it does under existing conditions. The Council on Environmental Quality regulations requires this alternative to be part of the proposals so that it can be used as a benchmark to compare the magnitude of environmental impacts of the other alternatives.
Modifications to existing airspace would involve air traffic procedure changes that increase departure efficiency to the west along multiple tracks and by splitting a major westbound airway into two independent airways. Under this alternative, there are new departure headings for LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and Philadelphia Airports.

  "This alternative enhances safety by reducing the complexity of the airspace and improves efficiency by expediting departures," the statement said. Ocean routing airspace was proposed by the New Jersey Citizens for Environmental Research (NJCER) at the request of NJCAAN. It moves all departing flights from Newark Liberty International Airport over the Atlantic Ocean before turning back over land in the direction of the next destination of departing aircraft. The purpose of this alternative would be to reduce noise impacts on New Jersey residents. "While the ocean routing alternative does not meet the purpose of the project by increasing efficiency, the FAA elected to include this alternative for analysis due to NJCAAN concerns," the statement said. The integrated airspace alternative would make additional airspace available to enable air traffic controllers to expedite the flow of traffic in and out of the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia metropolitan areas "more efficiently and safely." This alternative could be carried out either with existing, standalone air traffic control facilities or by consolidating facilities throughout the project area. The proposals can be further reviewed at

Source - Observer Tribune