Residents, officials doubt MSP airport expansion plan

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2012 - 11:57 PM

Some fear noise will be worse than airport officials anticipate.

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Roy Fuhrmann, vice president of management and operations at the Metropolitan Airports Commission, answered a question by Cathy Janson of Apple Valley.

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A major expansion planned for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport drew objections Monday night from homeowners and city officials who worry that it would increase airplane noise in places that already experience plenty of it.

Officials' claim that only 1,131 homes would need new sound-proofing was no comfort to Tom Knickelbine. "Every single person walking around Lake Harriet is going to feel this," said Knickelbine, who lives near the lake, where more noise and sound-proofing are expected. "I don't live in my home 24/7."

He was among a couple of dozen residents at the public hearing at airport headquarters in Minneapolis on the $1.5 billion plan to expand the airport to handle an expected increase in traffic by 2020.

Officials say the airport could become unacceptably congested without expansion, and developing another airport is unrealistic. Future high-speed rail would do little to reduce air traffic, they say.

They defended the expansion as one that would have no significant environmental effect on surrounding neighborhoods in Minneapolis and its suburbs. But residents bristled at that conclusion.

"You claim no significant impact," said Bob Friedman, who lives in a south Minneapolis neighborhood where residents have complained about more noise but don't qualify for additional noise abatement measures under the expansion plan. "Our home values are dropping and will drop further."

The airport's conclusion is contained in an environmental assessment that needs federal approval before the Metropolitan Airports Commission can proceed with the expansion. MAC says it would roll out any expansion in stages to meet demand.

The plan calls for remodeling concourses and building a new international wing and a parking ramp, paid for mostly with airport revenues from passengers and airlines.

The plan assumes that Delta will maintain a major hub at the airport, larger aircraft will carry more passengers and Twin Cities business will resume expanding after economic hard times.

The report concludes that roughly as many homes would face increased noise even without the expansion, assuming the same increase in demand for flights.

Homeowners object

Affected homes would be in Minneapolis, Eagan, Richfield, Bloomington and Mendota Heights. The report predicts that 2,703 metro-area homes would experience more noise by 2020 than in 2010, but most got sound-proofing when noise reached similar levels during peak travel years ago and won't get more. Only 1,131 homes in the Lake Harriet area would get noise abatement for the first time, or more abatement.

Some homeowners worry that they'd hear more noise even as the abatement program stopped short of including their property.

"I'm in an exclusion zone right now," said Steve Watson, who lives in the Lake Harriet area near homes with subsidized sound-proofing. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to hear ... those airplanes."

Others said the environmental assessment doesn't do a good job of measuring airplane noise. And Minneapolis City Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy called for a more elaborate environmental impact study.

"The way it's measured is not reflecting our experience," said Michael Kehoe, who lives in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood.

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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