We’re still waiting…. New runway has done little to ease delays

October 14, 2009
By

Hindsight is always 20/20. And when it comes to Chelsea residents and Massport, the future usually comes out the way that the residents predicted.

Ten years ago, residents who were part of the fight against runway expansion said that if Massport was allowed to lift a 27-year old injunction and build Runway 14/32 at Logan International Airport, the airport’s historic delay problem would not be solved.

Last week, the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program issued a report stating that runway 14/32, which opened for business last Thanksgiving, has done little or nothing to address Logan’s delay problem.

Domestic flights arriving at Logan are late 25 percent of the time and Logan is ranked 78 out of 89 for on-time take-off performance among city airports in the nation. This delay problem is worse than four years ago.

The funny part about this story is that Massport spokesman, Matt Brelis, recently pointed to runway 14/32 and the controversial centerfield taxiway as two construction projects the Massport has taken to improve delay times at Logan.

But they haven’t.

In the almost decade long history of runway 14/32, first, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford ruled in favor of Massport, approving the way for the construction of a fifth, wind-restricted runway at Logan Airport. Then, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington called the claims by Communities Against Runway Expansion (CARE), which included members of the Chelsea community, that the FAA did not adequately analyze the noise and air-quality impacts on neighboring communities ‘merit less’.

“The federal court basically said that the citizens complaints were not justified,” said CARE vice president, Bill Manning at the time. “This is a continuing sign that there is a governmental bias against communities trying to protect their quality of life.”

The FAA’s Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS), which was based on an independent firm’s findings led to the approval of 14/32, a wind-restricted runway at the airport in 2002.

CARE’s lawyer, Peter Koff has long said the study, completed by the Mitre Corporation, compromised the objectivity and integrity of the review process and that the FAA did not properly select and supervise Mitre’s report on the runway’s environmental impact.

Furthermore Koff said earlier drafts of the Mitre report that was submitted to the FAA contains key language and harmful conclusions that disappeared in the final draft, alleging that Massport had editorial control over the report’s conclusions.

The information was hidden from the public and when obtained was challenged as a piece of fiction by Koff.

The FAA and Massport tried to discredit Koff, saying it was common for language to change from draft to draft and what is seen in earlier drafts are Mitre’s initial findings.

The FAA maintained that while the language may have changed, the findings by Mitre did not. The initial findings by Mitre are the same as the findings in the FEIS and that the FAA did not change language within one document. What Mitre submitted and how we characterized the report’s findings are two separate documents, according to the FAA.

But Koff suspected that Massport might have had editorial power over the independent study, which Massport adamantly denied.

Massport called Koff’s attempts to discredit the report a last-minute desperate legal maneuver to tarnish Massport and the FAA’s integrity and Mitre’s independent study.

However, Koff has, on several occasions, pointed to the draft version of the Mitre report and how it differs from the final version.

“These delay concerns may undermine the economic justification of the new runway,” the report stated. “The magnitude of the overall delays seems too large, and consequently, the magnitude of the delay savings attributed to the new runway may be correspondingly overstated.”

While the final version read, “In summary, the magnitude of the overall delays seems too large, and consequently, the magnitude of the delay savings attributable to the new runway may be overstated. But nevertheless, the savings are still substantial under almost any reasonable long term traffic forecast.”

That last line sealed the deal for 14/32 and based its existence entirely on the fact that delay “savings are still substantial under almost any reasonable long term traffic forecast.”

The new study has completely discredited this statement and thus the existence of the runway.


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