The location chosen for a new runway could determine whether planes from Palm Beach International Airport fly closer to Donald Trump's historic Mar-a-Lago landmark and Conniston Middle School or two of the only West Palm Beach neighborhoods east of Dixie Highway that are not nationally designated as historic sites.
The Federal Aviation Administration is considering two paths for a second commercial runway being proposed at the airport. As part of a three-year study of the runway project, federal officials are weighing the effects both locations will have on the environment, including surrounding neighborhoods, historic sites and schools.
Both plans would put the new 8,000-foot runway next to the airport's existing runway. The main difference: one proposed by airport officials would be built 800 feet to the south of where the airport's southernmost runway now sits, the other proposed by the FAA would be built 800 feet north of the commercial runway.
Residents living under Palm Beach International Airport's flight path will get their first glimpse at the two plans at a public workshop tonight .
The FAA's idea, at an estimated cost of $629 million, would require demolition of some concourse gates, but would avoid putting planes above Mar-a-Lago, neighborhoods also designated historic and the middle school. The airport's plan, whose price tag the FAA estimates at about $300 million, would have planes flying over those places. Some residents fear it also might require the airport's buying homes in the nearby Vedado neighborhood.
The FAA is evaluating both sites to determine how much noise the new runway would bring to nearby neighborhoods. Federal officials are required to give sites on the national register of historic places special consideration. The runway's effect on public parks, schools and places of worship also will receive an extensive review.
As part of the environmental study, federal officials considered about two dozen proposals. The FAA's and the airport's plans were the only two that they considered viable after an initial review.
The airport's plan would lengthen the airport's general aviation runway from 3,210 to 8,000 feet.
To make room for it, several business that service private planes and corporate jets would be moved from their buildings along Southern Boulevard and relocated to land near Belvedere Road and Military Trail that was the former own of Golfview.
The airport's third, crosswind runway would be shortened from 6,932 to 4,000 feet so that it no longer intersects the main runway.
In addition to bringing planes closer to the historic Central Park neighborhood, Conniston Middle School and Mar-a-Lago, the plan would also have planes flying closer to the Vedado neighborhood, located north of Southern Boulevard and west of Parker Avenue. The community sits next to the former Hillcrest neighborhood, where hundreds of homes were bought and demolished because of airport noise.
Trump has opposed the extension, citing Mar-a-Lago's national historic designation.
Meanwhile, Vedado is currently seeking the federal designation. It has already received a local designation from the city.
The FAA proposal would put the new runway 1,600 feet north of the current general aviation runway.
But in order to build it, 11 gates in the airport's terminal in concourses B and C would have to be demolished and relocated. The airport's air cargo facility would also have to be moved.
The general aviation runway would remain intact. The crosswind runway would be eliminated. Airport businesses along Southern Boulevard would not have to be relocated.
Bailey Gray, president of the Southland Park neighborhood, just east of Dixie Highway, said the northern shift would bring planes closer to his community and neighboring Prospect Park.
The neighborhoods are the only communities east of Dixie Highway and directly under the airport's flight path that do not have a national historic designation, Gray said.
"We're going to fight this tooth and nail," Trump said. "Anything involving Bruce Pelly is in my opinion going to turn out poorly. He shouldn't be allowed to run a doghouse, let alone an airport."
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The Federal Aviation Administration has begun a three-year, $1 million environmental study to consider lengthening the airport's general aviation runway from 3,210 to 8,000 feet.
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