Runway to Grow; Noise Next Issue

As airport expansion opponents vow to continue fighting, Broward is preparing for debates about noise-reduction projects and other steps toward construction


Commissioners Sue Gunzburger, John Rodstrom and Lois Wexler voted against expansion, called for collecting more information and raised concerns about the harm it could cause.

"For a runway to impact a neighborhood the way it impacts Melaleuca, you cannot recover from that," Wexler said. "You can't sound-block. You can't mitigate quality of life."

Not everyone believes the chosen plan will ease delays. It lengthens the south runway but calls for closing a noisy crosswind airstrip, leaving only two runways.

That worries Robert Berlucchi, air traffic manager at the airport, who said in a May 10 letter responding to the FAA's draft environmental impact statement that the closure will create delays. "Gridlock in later years should be expected," he wrote.

PASSIONATE DEBATE

Tuesday night's meeting drew a rowdy crowd in dueling red and yellow T-shirts. Their protests were creative: Family members of expansion opponent Brenda Lee Chalifour baked a cake in the shape of a runway, decorated with plastic planes.

By Wednesday morning, all Chalifour had to show for her years of fighting expansion was the cake and a ticket for trespassing. She was escorted out of the Convention Center by deputies after ignoring Eggelletion's warnings about speaking repeatedly on behalf of others.

Chalifour, an attorney, vowed to fight her trespassing charge. All parties might wait until the FAA announces its preferred runway alternative later this year or next year to decide on any legal action.

BUSINESS IMPACT

Wednesday's vote won't end debates over the impact on the environment and whether the county made the best choice. Airport opponents raised concerns that the construction project will cause discounted airlines to flee the airport to avoid higher passenger fees.

But JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said expansion is good for its business. Fort Lauderdale is JetBlue's fifth-busiest airport.

"We fully support the runway expansion because it's going to alleviate congestion at the airport, it's going to bring in more jobs in the community and provide more options for customers in the Fort Lauderdale area," she said.

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