FAA FINALIZES CHOICE FOR AIRPORT EXPANSION
By ALEX ROSE
The Federal Aviation Administration finalized its choice this month for a proposed Capacity Enhancement Program alternative at Philadelphia International Airport.
The administration published three potential paths for the program in a draft environmental impact statement in September 2008.
The FAA indicated earlier this year that “Alternative A” would be the preferred model, but spokeswoman Arlene Salac said at the time the administration was awaiting the completion of the final environmental impact statement before locking-in that choice.
With the impact statement publication, it appears the FAA has stuck with that alternative, which is expected to cost about $5.2 billion and will be paid for through FAA grants, airport revenue bonds, and passenger facility charges added onto tickets.
When asked for comment on the plan, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the document speaks for itself.
According to the impact statement, Alternative A would add a new runway at the airport and extend two existing runways eastward with an aim of reducing average delays from 19.3 minutes to 5.2 minutes by 2025.
The expansion would require acquiring some 200 acres of private land from multiple owners and relocating a UPS facility currently at the southern end of the airport to the northwest corner, displacing 72 residences.
Tinicum would lose about $216,000 per year in real estate taxes, while the county would also lose about $283,000 and the Interboro School District would lose about $1.8 million annually.
Another 80 businesses and estimated 3,300 employees would also be displaced, according to the impact statement, resulting in an annual tax revenue loss of $226,000 and $348,000 for the township and school district, respectively.
Alternative A would also result in “significant noise impacts” to 832 people and 330 housing units by 2025, and 1,196 people and 497 hosing units in 2030, according to the statement.
The plan would require reconfigured parking and freight rail lines, as well as a new commuter terminal and an “automated people mover” to ferry people around the airport.
New runway construction would also impact the Delaware River, necessitating a solid fill structure to accommodate the new runway.
Alternative A would additionally result in the loss of about 82 acres of wetlands, 23 acres of waterways and 24.5 acres of the Delaware River.
The Capacity Enhancement Program is expected to take between 12 and 15 years to complete, and could create between 44,700-46,400 construction jobs in that period.
“Now that a final decision has been made, we’ll probably have a meeting right after Labor Day to discuss it and I don’t know what our options are,” said Tinicum commissioners President Thomas J. Giancristoforo Jr. “I’m going to do everything in my power to stop the further encroachment of Philadelphia International into Tinicum Township. It’s our survival, really.”
Tinicum initiated a lawsuit to halt the Capacity Enhancement Program in May 2009, seeking a declaratory judgment that a 1925 statute provides first-class cities the authority to acquire lands for airports and landing fields outside their borders only “with the consent of the local authorities where such land is situated.”
Tinicum attorney Francis Pileggi said he expects the federal judge presiding over the case will make a decision soon, but that will only be the beginning.
“I expect that whatever the decision is, the other party will appeal it if it’s not in their favor,” said Pileggi. “It’s just the beginning of a long battle, I’m sure.”
Work shops planned
According to a release from the county, there will be two workshops hosted by Philadelphia Division of Aviation staff on Philadelphia International Airport’s Noise Compatibility Program this week where residents and municipal officials can discuss noise-mitigation techniques.
The first will take place 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Tinicum Elementary School at First and Seneca avenues.
The second will be 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Mercy Wellness Center, 2821 Island Ave., Philadelphia, with an accompanying public hearing beginning at 6 p.m.
Source - Daily Times