New data needed for Green runway expansion plan

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Oct. 22--WARWICK -- The board of the state agency that runs Rhode Island's airports voted Wednesday to approve a $700,000 consulting contract to develop new airport traffic forecasts required by the Federal Aviation Administration as it reviews plans to extend T.F. Green Airport's main runway.

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation board voted unanimously to approve the contract with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, the Massachusetts firm that has worked on the airport's Environmental Impact Statement, a document required for projects using federal money.

The FAA's demand for updated forecasts came after Warwick officials complained that forecasts in the document have grown out of date as the runway extension project has dragged on for about a decade.

Kevin A. Dillon, president of the airport corporation, said the updated forecasts will delay the project by about six months, but not have a substantial effect on the work to be done. Unlike terminal expansion projects across the country, the runway extension is not based on projected increases in the number of passengers using the facility, Dillon said. The runway extension is to allow heavier planes, such as those loaded with fuel for a West Coast trip, to take off.

Warwick officials have noted that, during the recession, travel through Green has dropped significantly.

Recently released figure from the airport corporation show that travel at Green dropped 10 percent in September 2009 from the same month a year earlier.

This September, 335,146 passengers traveled through Green, compared with 368,416 last year. So far this year, 3.3 million passengers have traveled through Green, compared with 3.6 million at the same time last year.

pparker@projo.com

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