Airport plan a 2-state battle|
West Deptford resident Cesare Cosenza knew the move from Cherry Hill to RiverWinds meant he would live just miles from Philadelphia International Airport. He anticipated a steady flow of planes over the area and occasional noise, but did not expect aircraft flying just over the tree line, sometimes sounding deafening. Now with three projects proposed at the Philadelphia Airport to increase capacity and reduce delays, Cosenza is among residents and elected officials on both sides of the river who don't expect much future relief. "I don't know how they can change it to make it any better," he said. "It is an issue that is definitely going to affect West Deptford." According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports, the proposed projects to extend Runway 17-35 to accommodate larger jets; reconfigure airport runways to increase capacity; and redesign airspace over Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey would increase air traffic and noise on both sides of the river. But elected officials in Pennsylvania have taken their opposition a step further. Delaware County Council has hired its own expert to counter FAA information, which they claim is flawed, and has recently threatened court action to halt the plans. So what does that mean for New Jersey? If a lawsuit were successful, would additional traffic be shifted to this side of the river? FAA spokesman Jim Peters said that would not be the case. "We can't just arbitrarily shift noise from one community to another," he said. "That would be unfair." The FAA has already approved the Runway 17-35 expansion, and preliminary construction is under way. The purpose of that project is to allow larger jets to take off on the runway, a short-term fix to airport delays. The Capacity Enhancement Program, a decade-long project, would reconfigure runways at the airport, with two of the three proposals wiping out the 17-35 runway altogether. The New Jersey/New York/Philadelphia airspace redesign plan is in the final stages of completion. The "preferred alternative" among the five proposed is expected to be selected in January, with a final record of decision in May. While the time period for the projects to begin is staggered, with some of them months away, one New Jersey congressman believes that the plans could be altered sooner. U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-1st Dist. of Haddon Heights, said congressional control in November could impact the FAA plans greatly, since the administration relies on federal funding for the projects. Andrews has placed opposition to the proposed Runway 17-35 expansion on record, stating that it would increase noise over South Jersey, and fail to reduce flight delays by more than 40 seconds on average. At the FAA, Peters said local officials have the right to have their views on record - or in Delaware County's case, to sue - but he believes that the FAA has done everything by the book. "We will continue to meet with anybody who wants to meet with us," he said. "We believe we have complied fully."