News Article - September 12, 2008

By Jonathan Vit

  PAULSBORO Before a handful of people, the Federal Aviation Administration detailed the possible impacts of plans to reconfigure Philadelphia International Airport, a project that could prevent significant delays at an already congested airport, but would send more air traffic over Gibbstown. The FAA is analyzing three possible options, one that would leave the airport as-is and two that would restructure the airport layout by building one new runway and extending two by more than 1,000 feet each. Costing as much as $5.4 million, the project would save 10 minutes of average future delays by the year 2025. "What the average really means, is that at five minutes of delays the FAA says that is a congested airport, at 10 minutes of delays the FAA says it is an extremely congested airport," said Sue McDonald, project manager for the FAA. "At 20 minutes of delays that airport is gridlocked."

   Without any changes at Philadelphia International Airport, congestion would reach a level that would severely impact normal operation of the airport, pushing more flights into the overnight hours and forcing airlines to utilize larger planes as total traffic reaches more than 600,000 yearly flights. As more and more planes circle overhead in a holding pattern, aircraft noise would increase over Gloucester County. Air quality would also suffer from the increase in exhaust fumes, said FAA officials. "If we do nothing it will just continue to be one of the most delayed airports in the country," said FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

   The FAA is looking at two options to restructure the airport. Both options would include the construction of an automatic people mover to a new series of airport terminals that would reduce airplane backup, said FAA officials. In Option A, the FAA is investigating the construction of one new runway and the extension of two others. In Option B, the FAA is looking at the possibility of constructing one new runway and extending two other runways as well as the removal of the airport's only north-to-south heading the runway responsible for much of the noise over Paulsboro and West Deptford Township to keep air traffic regulated to east-to-west headings only.

   As a result, congestion would decrease in future years, but numerous towns, including sections of Gibbstown and Paulsboro, would see an increased level of air traffic. Under both plans, Westville, West Deptford Township, and National Park would see a decrease in air traffic. None of the affected areas would see an increase in air traffic-related noise that the FAA considers significant.

   Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery was among the handful of attendees and voiced his concerns over the proposed plan, which would send more flights right over the center of Gibbstown. "We are very concerned about any increase in noise over Greenwich Township," said Shivery. "Any increase in noise levels in unacceptable."

   The new flight paths resulting from the airport restructuring would saturate the small town of Gibbstown, he said, with an average day/night noise level somewhere in the range of a busy urban center. "When my town should be in the 40-to-50-decibel level, it will be in the 60s. I am very concerned," said Shivery.

Source - Gloucester County Times