Longer Runway Sought at Palm Beach

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.

Jose Rodriguez, president of the Vedado Neighborhood Association, which is in the airport's flight path, said noisy airplanes already prevent residents in his neighborhood from enjoying their back yards during the airport's peak weekend hours. A longer runway will only make things worse, he said.

"My windows rattle. My doors rattle," said Rodriguez, who has been involved in airport issues for the past six years.

"When a plane is landing, I have to raise the volume of the TV, or when we are having a conversation we have to stop until the plane passes by," he said. "Sunday afternoon, between 2 and 5 p.m. that is what we call rush hour. That's when you know you can't have any company outside."

Rodriguez said the airport has paid to install insulated windows in a handful of homes in his neighborhood because of loud planes. He wants more money set aside to soundproof homes.

"We are going to be sandwiched in between two air strips," Rodriguez said. "And there hasn't been any communication directly to the neighborhoods."

Public hearings planned

De La Rionda said it's too soon to say how the extension will affect nearby neighborhoods. Noise will be one of the environmental concerns evaluated as part of the FAA's study, she said.

The study also will look at air quality, wetlands and other environmental issues that could be affected by the project, Bergen said.

This month's meeting is the first in a series of public hearings and workshops the FAA will conduct on the plan, Bergen said.

Tuesday was the first day that Susy Diaz, a resident of the Prospect Heights neighborhood, heard of the plans to expand the airport's runway. Diaz said she plans to attend the public meeting.

"I can see where people are concerned," said Diaz, who has had family ties to the neighborhood for all of her 32 years. "We've had plenty of people in our area that have had issues with the noise."

She worried that her neighbors might also be unaware of airport's plans.

"It's vital to the economic development to the area," she said about the expansion. "But it's got to be while (keeping) the residents informed."

Staff writer Hector Florin contributed to this story.

What's next

- The FAA must complete a three-year environmental study of the runway extension.

- If the FAA approves the plan, airport officials will have to find state and federal grants to cover a majority of the runway's $69 million price tag.

- Passenger facility charges, a fee added to all airline tickets, would be increased from $3 to $4.50 to help pay for the extension.

- If approved, airport officials say it would be 'many years' before construction begins.

FAA public meeting


5-8 p.m. Feb. 27


Hilton Palm Beach Airport, 150 Australian Ave., west of West Palm Beach

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