Thursday, July 17, 2003

Lunken Airport compromise possible

Noise not insurmountable

After years of arguing based on anecdote and emotion, there is finally some scientific analysis of how much noise actually comes from Lunken Airport.

A map released Tuesday showing "noise contours" hasn't ended the controversy, however. Neighbors of the airport now say the analysis is flawed, that it is too heavily based on computer abstractions and not enough on real measurements of noise in the nearby residential areas.

It's no surprise the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition is unhappy. Virtually every improvement proposed to Lunken in recent years has been met with loud opposition from the airport's neighbors, who represent some of the city's most stable and affluent communities. Excessive noise is a legitimate concern, especially if it hurts property values.

But Lunken Airport, once the primary air hub in the region, now sits as an underused resource with immense economic development potential for the city. The map released Tuesday tentatively indicates that some sort of compromise is possible.

According to the study, the loudest noises are completely on airport property. The 65-decibel threshold, at which the airport's noise is almost the same as a vacuum cleaner running non-stop 10 feet away, extends a little past the airport.

Tuesday's noise map isn't the end of the debate, nor should it be. It's only part of a $250,000 study, financed mostly by federal funds, which will take a comprehensive look at the airport's impact on surrounding communities. It could lead to federal help for noise-mitigation projects, which could include such minor steps as changing the approach paths for landing planes, and more drastic steps such as property buyouts.

Cincinnati City Council wisely imposed a moratorium on allowing larger jets to use Lunken last fall, putting off development for further study. No long-term plans should be implemented until that study is completed early next year.

But for the moment, we remain convinced that it may be possible to expand the use of the airport - and enjoy its significant economic benefits - without critically damaging the neighborhoods around it.

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