While supporting a compromise that delays re-routing planes, Minnesota members of Congress stop short of opposing the plan.
Minnesota congressmen and senators favor a plan to spare -- at least for now -- some areas of Minneapolis and Edina from a heavier concentration of flights taking off from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
They have contacted the Federal Aviation Administration to express concerns about its new flight system that would use technology to send departures in more concentrated paths over the entire metro area.
"I will be following the issue closely to make sure that the FAA is listening to all affected communities, families and businesses who wish to be heard," said Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, said, "As the FAA moves forward with implementation ... it must consider local input."
Congressmen Erik Paulsen, a Republican whose district includes Edina, and Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat whose district includes Minneapolis, also have expressed concerns about the effects of the FAA proposal.
Ellison said he "has been working with both the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration to understand the implications."
Ellison, Klobuchar and Franken issued statements this month supporting a compromise recommended by the Metropolitan Airports Commission that would use the system on runways that send flights over Eagan and some other southern suburbs but not runways that send flights over much of south and southwestern Minneapolis, Edina and Richfield.
Paulsen's office said he worked to delay the more elaborate FAA proposal so Edina residents could voice their opinions.
But the four stopped short of ultimately opposing use of the FAA system for all runways at the airport.
Instead, they said the Airports Commission recommendation for limited use of the system would give the public more time to weigh in on the controversy and the FAA more time to consider the effects.
The FAA is studying whether the compromise would work at Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The FAA had pushed the system for all runways, saying it would improve safety and efficiency and conserve fuel, and it is backed by the airlines. The system routes takeoffs on more narrow flight paths and is being rolled out in stages at airports around the nation.
The dispute divides communities. Eagan and Richfield favor the system to divert airplane noise from homes to nearby expressways and rivers. Some residents of Edina and parts of southwest and south Minneapolis opposed the technology because it will concentrate flights over their homes.
But Richfield officials complain that the compromise would deprive some of their residents of the benefits of the new system.
Despite the concerns, the new FAA system has considerable support in Congress. Paulsen's office said he "appreciates the use of new technology to improve safety and efficiency" but added that he "believes it's essential that the residents and stakeholders, who will potentially be affected by a new flight plan, have their concerns heard and addressed."
When the FAA will make a decision was unclear. Edina City Manager Scott Neal said this week that a decision by the agency on whether to begin a partial use of the system could come this month. The FAA said there is no deadline.
Neal said Edina contacted Paulsen's office in November to protest the FAA flight plan.
"They said they'd do their darndest to help us," Neal recalled. "I think they made some phone calls."
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504
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