Airport noise: Flawed data and process fuels 'ire'

  • Article by: KEVIN TERRELL
  • Updated: November 23, 2012 - 6:06 PM
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October, 2012: A plane that took off from MSP cruises over a Southwest Minneapolis neighborhood near the Crosstown and Oliver Ave. S.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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As an active participant in this week's Metropolitan Airports Commission meeting about new flight paths around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, I wanted to add some important facts to Pat Doyle's excellent reporting ("Homeowner ire deflects plane noise," Nov. 20).

Specifically, in their own words, it is apparent that neither the MAC nor the Federal Aviation Administration has completed any substantive analysis of the community impact of the proposed flight paths. As the MAC's executive director, Jeff Hamiel, stated to me, the MAC has "not done extensive noise analysis of these routes."

In addition, FAA director Dennis Roberts made clear under questioning that the FAA has not even completed its environmental analysis of these proposed changes, despite seeking a recommendation to proceed.

Furthermore, any existing analysis of the new flight path over southwest Minneapolis and Edina can only be characterized as flawed, if not invalid. For instance, the closest noise monitoring tower that the MAC used for its projections is more than half a mile from parts of Minneapolis that are directly under a proposed route, and well more than a mile from any part of Edina. Even if we took at face value the data from those towers, a valid study of the situation would reveal that those data in no way reflect the impact of the proposed changes on how people actually use their homes and yards in Minnesota.

Finally, a baseline assumption of the MAC and the FAA is that we need to implement these changes in part due to expected increases in flight volume at MSP. Yet the data clearly show that annual flight operations at the airport are 22 percent below their peak in 2004. I await an explanation as to how we can have far fewer flights while also ending up with a large increase in "sensitive land use overflights," in direct contradiction of the MAC's stated goals.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak noted that these changes threaten the heart of middle-class neighborhoods in Minneapolis. That threat is being foisted upon us based on flawed assumptions, invalid analysis, and with results communicated in a confusing way to almost no one.

I spoke directly with Hamiel about citizen interest and ability to work with the MAC on addressing these issues. We look forward to cooperating with him and other stakeholders on preserving the Minnesota quality of life that we, quite literally, have bought into.

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Kevin Terrell, of Minneapolis, is a board member of the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association.

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