News Article - September 24, 2008

By: John M. Roman,

  Delaware County Council and other local officials are watching with interest the Philadelphia International Airport's long-range plans to acquire 82 homes and businesses in Tinicum for airport expansion. The Capacity Enhancement Program includes two runway expansion alternatives - both costing more than $5 billion - and the building of a fifth runway that would take 12 years to build. The third alternative is a no action or no-build decision. The expansion is needed because a delay problem exists at the airport and the major causes are the airfield's current configuration and the fleet mix, the Federal Aviation Administration reported in a recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

  "County council has very grave concerns over the continued callous disregard by the FAA and the city of Philadelphia in regard to the residents of Delaware County and, in this case, especially Tinicum Township," Delaware County Vice Chairman Jack Whelan said Monday. He said council plans to meet in the very near future with Tinicum commissioners to discuss the expansion plans, and a representative will attend the DEIS informational 6-9 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Tinicum School, 91 Seneca St., Essington. Whelan said he was waiting to review the DEIS before the public meeting and will look at the legal aspects of the expansion program.

  Ridley Park Mayor Hank Eberle, a longtime opponent of the FAA's Airspace Redesign project, which implemented new flight patterns over his and other county towns, said, "If it (residential acquisition) happened, the minute it becomes known to the public, the housing value drops significantly. "It's going to be tough to go out into the marketplace and find something equivalent." Even with the airspace redesign, "we have some regional airports with more space available," he said. "Why not use them, and that would reduce the demand upon the Philadelphia International Airport?"

  "Analyses of the forecasted passenger and aircraft-activity levels determined that the numbers and durations of delayed operations at PHL would continue to increase from their current average level of nearly 10 minutes per operation to nearly 20 minutes per operation in 2025," the DEIS report states. The FAA "considers an airport with average delay in excess of five minutes to be congested," the report says. Because the airport is a pacing airport, this congestion contributes to delays throughout the national airport system, it concludes. In the report's section on "Residential Impacts," it states both alternatives would require that 72 housing units west of the airport in Tinicum be acquired. They are east of Fourth Avenue between Seminole and Iroquois streets in the 2nd Ward of Lester.

  "This would result in community disruption, as the entire neighborhood west of Fourth Avenue would be relocated," the report states. "This is not anticipated to result in a significant impact, as there is sufficient replacement housing available in Tinicum." Each build alternative would result in the loss of real-estate taxes to the city of Philadelphia and Tinicum, assuming that businesses do not relocate in the immediate area. Alternative A would result in a real-estate tax loss of $1.1 million per year to the city and $216,000 per year to Tinicum. Alternative B would result in an annual tax loss to the city of $1.87 million and $216,000 to Tinicum. Each alternative would also reduce the real-estate tax revenues for Delaware County and the Interboro School District.

  The acquisition of three privately owned parking facilities would also reduce parking-tax revenues for either alternative to the city by about $550,000 per year; Tinicum by about $226,000 per year; and the Interboro School District by about $348,000 per year. However, the FAA reports these losses "would be partially offset by new employment taxes generated by the new jobs at the airport, as well as increased retail sales activity at the airport." The potential loss of tax revenue would not result in a severe economic hardship to the city because of the size of its economy and tax base, according to the FAA. However, Tinicum could experience an economic hardship because of the loss of taxes if businesses do not relocate within the community.

Source - Delco Times