The latest proposal to expand runway at Tweed should be put in historical context, not considered in isolation. Tweed has had a long history of being a bad neighbor, all in the hopes of finishing the Tweed “Master Plan” (their name, not ours). We can’t and won’t trust the airport at its word, especially when it plans to defy the “historic” 2009 memorandum of agreement (MOA), while not even notifying East Haven. There were indications that Tweed would discard the MOA as far back as 2011:
“Just a quick history lesson and reminder of what Tweed New Haven Regional Airport is doing and why the need to purchase two small pieces of useless wetlands from East Haven at a price of 1.5 million dollars. In 1999, a master plan was developed for the airport… The plan shows what work was to be performed within four phases of development leading up to a runway length of 7,200 feet. Phase one is complete and phase two, I believe, is as well or if not is almost finished.
So why does the airport need that land? Why, because Tweed needs to own that property to allow for the completion of phases three and four… Phase three calls for the RSAs to be paved and runway 2/20 lengthened to 6,500 feet. Homes at the south end were to be purchased on price agreement and if not, taken by eminent domain. Phase four is to install new RSAs and increase the runway to a final length to 7,200.” ~ Richard Poulton, East Haven Patch, March 30, 2011
Are we supposed to believe that Tweed’s planners won’t be asking for another expansion in a few years (or sooner)? The plan has already been laid out, and Tweed has the judicial, legislative, and municipal influence it needs to get what it wants. New Haven and East Haven residents, as well as concerned people all over Connecticut, need to voice their opposition to Tweed’s expansion and organize against it.
Tweed has a repetitive cycle of flight expansion and contraction. There has always been contraction. Why is today different?
For airlines, it is more likely that profit will continue to rule the day through the 2010s. In this scenario, small community airports may continue to struggle to receive network career service. Some carriers will signal their exits out of small communities by attempting to divest their individual flights.
Experts agree: Small airports are on the decline.
“The ‘capacity discipline’ movement has evolved in response to a new profit-driven management focus, as airlines cut unprofitable and redundant flying and minimized the number of empty seats on each departing plane. Many of these cuts came at the expense of small airports, as most network carriers do not possess aircraft that are correctly sized to serve these markets… smaller airports in multi-airport regions may be particularly at risk, as passengers will likely choose to drive to a nearby larger airport to save on airfare or take advantage of more connecting options.” ~ MIT white paper, May 2013
“‘Most likely, small communities will not be able to recover the same level of service in the near term that they received in the capacity-expansion era,’ the report said. It added, ‘airports in close geographic proximity to major hubs, and those with a systematic lack of local demand, may be at risk of losing all of their network-carrier service in the next five years.'” ~ New York Times, March 31, 2014
The latest push to expand the runway at Tweed is an ill-fated effort to fight a nationwide trend. Will taxpayers foot the bill (yet again) when the effort fails to attract more commercial flights?
- More paved runway means more toxic runoff entering the surrounding creek and Long Island Sound.
- The southern end of the main runway is built on top of filled wetlands. The proposal will pave more wetland area that is home to diverse wildlife.
- Will there be more tree topping or removal? Trees provide many ecosystem benefits including noise reduction and filtering the air.
- Airplane de-icing agents cause far-reaching groundwater and soil changes, especially in cold climates with long winters. Tweed’s executive director stated in March 2015 that the airport was “under siege” to the long and intense winter. Did the use of de-icing chemicals increase as a result?
- Sea level rise, storm surges, and severe weather increasingly threatens the East Shore, Morris Cove, and Momauguin neighborhoods (with Tweed Airport smack dab in the middle of the flood zone). The most notorious destruction occurred in the 2011 and 2012 hurricane seasons, south of the airport runway Tweed wants to lengthen. Not only does investment in airport expansion divert funds from weather preparation and mitigation for residents, it ignores the potential human and environmental disaster that sustained flooding at a busy airport would cause.
- Increased flights mean increased traffic through residential neighborhoods.
- Concerns for increased asthma levels, respiratory ailments, and lung diseases.
- Elevated stress to humans and pets due to noise and low flying planes. Decibel levels exceed EPA Health and Safety Standards. Window replacement does not address that people also live outdoors.
- Increased concern and worry about future devastating accidents. Noise levels are increasing and the system to report violations is inadequate and often disabled.
- Loss of simple pleasures like opening a window on a nice summer day.
The health risk isn’t limited to Tweed’s neighbors. We won’t know what harm a bigger airport could bring until it’s too late.
“Building on earlier air quality studies, environmental and preventive medicine experts from USC and the University of Washington found concentrations of the wind-driven particles over a 23-square-mile area that includes cities and unincorporated areas along LAX’s flight paths, including Lennox, El Segundo, Inglewood and parts of Los Angeles… ‘This is a very novel and alarming set of results,’ said Ralph Delfino, a professor of epidemiology at UC Irvine who studies the health effects of air pollution and reviewed the study. ‘It’s all very, very surprising.'” ~ Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2014