Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Concerns on airport are heard

Neighbors cite noise, safety as expansion issues

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        BURLINGTON — Tom and Margie Biedenbender of Hebron consider themselves in something of a bind.

        The Biedenbenders were two of about 200 people who gathered Tuesday at Stephens Elementary School on North Bend Road for the first of two public Federal Aviation Administration hearings on the proposed expansion of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        Airport officials are seeking federal approval to build an 8,000-foot north-south runway west of the two current north-south runways, and a 2,000-foot extension to the current east-west runway. The extension would lengthen the east-west runway to 12,000 feet.

        The Biedenbenders just wish the FAA would hurry up and do something. They can't look for another house until the airport has offered them a price for their Ellen Avenue home.

    The second and final public hearing on the proposed expansion of Cincinnati/
   Northern Kentucky International Airport takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Rapid Run Middle School, 6345 Rapid Run Pike in Delhi Township.
        “We've got five children (ages) 17 years to 3 months,” said Mrs. Biedenbender, 35. “It took us eight months to find this (house).”

        Added Mr. Biedenbender, 35: “Everything's on hold. We feel like our lives are on hold.”

        The expansion would displace 564 people in 188 residences. Another public meeting is scheduled for tonight in Hamilton County's Delhi Township, where new flight paths may bring increased noise.

        The FAA's final environmental impact study is due in July, followed by an FAA decision by December on whether to approve the runways.

        If final federal approval is granted, the airport hopes to complete both projects by 2005.

        The projects are estimated to cost $250 million. Costs include land acquisi tion, which the airport might pay through bond issues, renegotiated airline landing fees or direct charges to passengers.

        Peggy Kelley, an environmental program manager at the FAA office in Memphis, Tenn., said people such as the Biedenbenders think the home buyout process is moving too slowly.

        “We need to have this process in case there's something we overlooked,” Ms. Kelley said. “The public can help us notice things. If something comes up that we totally did not anticipate, the project can be modified and shifted. But at this point, we feel we have a pretty complete analysis.”

        Others attending Tuesday's hearing shared one of two additional opinions on the projects: they either don't believe the airport will stay on assigned flight paths; or that the whole thing is unsafe because departing planes to the north using the new runway and the one next to it could collide.

        Jim Vonderhaar, 59, lives on Dartmouth Drive near Burlington. He is eligible for having his house soundproofed with federal money, but he'd just as soon leave.

        “If we go out, planes are flying over my house,” Mr. Vonderhaar said. “We have to go through all kinds of (trouble) to get (soundproofing) done. What do we get out of it? I don't wish this on anybody.”

        Dale Huber, the airport's deputy director of aviation, said 80 percent of the traffic under the expansion would arrive from the north and depart to the south, generally along Interstate 75. When planes depart to the north, he said they are supposed to follow the Ohio River.

        “That's driven by the weather,” Mr. Huber said.

        John Bales, 72, lives in the Oakbrook subdivision off Ky. 18 between Florence and Burlington. He and a neighbor, John Witmer, 62, passed out one-page leaflets claiming in part that the runway is not safe.

        According to the leaflet, if a plane arriving from the south is not allowed to land on the new runway and has to circle and try again, it could hit another plane leaving on what would be the adjacent middle runway.

        But Ms. Kelley said air traffic controllers would not let the second plane leave until the first one touched down.

        An FAA report issued in February also stated that the new runway would also pollute streams — nearby Gunpowder and Elijah creeks in particular.

        Lee Anne Devine of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Louisville said the airport could have to contribute up to $3 million to clean up other streams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties.

        Noise pollution has also been a problem. In December, the airport allowed what are called run-ups, in which jet engines are revved up to full power as part of maintenance procedures, to take place 24 hours a day. They are allowed at the Delta, Comair and Mesaba maintenance hangars, as well as on hold pads on four runways. Mr. Huber said they would continue. The run-ups create noise at 3 or 4 a.m. as loud as a plane taking off, residents say.

        As Mr. Vonderhaar's neighbor, 62-year-old Willis Duggan, left the school, he offered his solution to the whole situation.

        “My home's only 8 years old,” Mr. Duggan said. “It doesn't need windows; it doesn't need new doors. It needs planes to not fly over my home and fly where they're supposed to.”

       James Pilcher contributed to this report.


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