Airport noise: Who gets help, when

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 20, 2007 - 6:38 PM

Last week's noise deal prompted lots of homeowners' questions wanting to know if, and when, homes would be upgraded to muffle the jet roar. Here are some answers:

If you've been waiting for years to get your home buffered against airport noise, be prepared to wait a few years longer.

Work will start in a little over a year on the roughly 432 homes most severely affected, and will be done by the end of 2009. But thousands of other qualifying homeowners won't see improvements for up to five years.

Details of the proposed schedule may be found at www.startribune.com/a3533.

Meanwhile, here are some common questions and answers:

Q. Didn't people know there was airport noise when they moved in?

A. Yes, but they cite two factors. Some moved in with the understanding that the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) had agreed to insulate their homes. And the airport has gotten busier since most moved in. There was a 19 percent increase in flights between 1994 and 2004, although that's since ebbed due to Northwest's financial troubles.

Q. How do I know if I qualify for noise work?

A. You may zoom into your block on the Internet at www.startribune.com/a3534. (Public libraries provide Internet access.) Blocks shaded in green, purple or pink will get work. Generally, those are north of Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan, the east edge of Bloomington, the east and north edges of Richfield, and thousands of Minneapolis homes. No work in Minneapolis will be done north of 44th Street or west of Girard Avenue S.

Q. I have loud airplanes over my house. Why don't I qualify?

A. The settlement covers only those homes that MAC said years ago it would insulate -- those with average 24-hour noise exposure of at least 60 decibels. The planes over your house may exceed that at times, but not on average, according to models used to map noise areas. The planes may be too high, they may be quieter planes or there may not be enough of them.

Q. When do I find out officially if I'm in?

A. The airports commission will notify you by letter. That could take years because work will be done in phases, generally giving homes with greatest noise, first relief.

Q. Who picks the contractor and the work to be done?

A. In general, MAC will preselect contractors, and homeowners will need to get quotes from at least two. MAC will pay for the work directly. But 2,352 less-affected homeowners on the outer edges of the settlement must arrange qualifying work and will get reimbursed after paying the contractor. This group must finish by mid-2014.

Homeowners will pick from a MAC menu that includes new or repaired windows or doors, attic or wall insulation, noise baffling, and in some cases, air conditioning. The severest-affected homes get enough work to reduce indoor sound by an average of 5 decibels, or more than half, while other homes will have a dollar limit.

Q. Is this deal ironclad?

A. No. For it to take effect, a judge must approve within 90 days a settlement to a lawsuit brought by another group of homeowners who sued MAC over noise issues. The Federal Aviation Administration must also sign off by Nov. 30. Otherwise, the deal is void. Moreover, MAC can delay the work schedule for such events as a terrorist attack, prolonged labor strike, or a 50 percent cut in air traffic. It can also void the deal if a court finds it has no source of money that legally may be used for noise insulation.

Q. So how will the work be paid for?

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