Tuesday, July 15, 2003

City to unveil map of loudest noise from Lunken Airport



By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati officials now have - for the first time - a map of where they think the noisiest areas are located in and around Lunken Airport. The map shows the loudest areas are on airport property.

But in a sign that the controversy over noise at the airport isn't going away, the leader of a neighborhood coalition that has protested that noise in the past says the map isn't accurate.

"The actual data shows that there were times that the decibel levels were higher than the contours and outside those lines several times, but they keep saying that these are computer generated and that's the way it is," said Mariemont Village Council member Doug Adams, who also serves as chairman of the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition.

In addition, city officials will present some potential alternatives for dealing with such noise, although they stress that the 18 suggestions are only a preliminary list that needs further refinement.

The city will unveil the map of the "noise contours," or areas where 24-hour noise levels hit certain ranges, to the public tonight at an open house at Ault Park in Mount Lookout. Those contours are created by computer simulations and then verified with actual noise monitors throughout the area.

"The footprint of all those noise contours are mostly all on the airport property," said Bob Vickrey, supervising engineer for Cincinnati's Department of Transportation and Engineering, which oversees the 1,000-acre, city-owned airport. "We actually added more monitors than were required for verification to make sure everyone felt good with the results. The city is interested in doing anything it possibly can to eliminate some noise in adjacent areas."

The map is part of an ongoing noise study at the airport, the first time the city has undertaken what is called a Part 150 study for Lunken. The $250,000 study, which began in January 2002, is being paid for primarily with federal funds. It is scheduled to be finished early next year.

If approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, the study would clear the way for the airport to receive federal funds for noise mitigation. Such programs at other airports, including the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, have included land buyouts and insulating existing houses against noise.

To qualify, a residence or business must be inside a certain contour that registers a 65-decibel day/night level, nearly the equivalent to hearing a vacuum cleaner from 10 feet away for 24 hours a day. And the airport must be registered for commercial service - Lunken is not.

According to the map, Lunken's 65-decibel level is very close to the airport property, with some areas sticking out to the northeast and southwest and to the south along Kellogg Avenue. Another map projecting what the contours will be in 2007 shows little change, although the 65-decibel area grows somewhat.

"This is all about clearing the way for scheduled passenger service," said Adams, who also serves on the committee advising the city on the study. "We've been able to give no real input on these alternatives."

The alternatives to be presented range from limiting training flights to certain hours to building areas where jets can rev up their engines away from populated areas to even extending one runway 900 feet, That idea was all but discounted by Vickrey for the sheer expense.

"We want these to look at three factors: will it work in reducing noise, is it safe, and is it viable or doable," Vickrey said.

Several suggestions focused on training flights, which Vickrey said cause a majority of noise complaints, with possible actions including a curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on such flights.

"That could create a concern because it gets dark so late here that we couldn't do our required nighttime training at all during the summer," said David Rattenbury, a flight instructor with the Cincinnati Flight Training Club. "But if they just say they'll put a limit on it, we may have some room for negotiation."

Other alternatives include shifting approach and departure routes, but Adams said that would just move noise from one area to another, adding that Campbell County in Northern Kentucky as well as Hyde Park and Oakley could potentially get more noise.

At least four alternatives focus on improving communication with the airport's users as well as nearby residents. Vickrey said tonight's open house was a key first step toward that goal. He also stressed that the list of alternatives was not final.

"We're really hoping that by holding this open house and getting this information out there, we can get the facts out there," said Vickrey.

"There definitely has been a breakdown in communications, and we're hoping to improve that."

Open house

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: Ault Park Pavilion, 5090 Observatory Circle, Mount Lookout

What: Cincinnati officials present preliminary noise contour map and potential alternatives for dealing with noise at Lunken Airport.

To complain about noise at Lunken, residents can call 352-4070 or e-mail noise.study@cincinnati-oh.gov

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E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com




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