Lehigh-Northampton Wants to Use Federal Funds to Buy Nearby Homes

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority wants permission from the government to make it easier to use federal noise abatement money to buy neighboring homes in the future.

The adjustment would make it easier for the authority to buy 36 Catasauqua and Hanover Township, Lehigh County, homes after it expands its "Crosswind" northwest-southeast runway, said Larry Krauter, the authority's deputy executive director.

The authority's noise advisory committee last week discussed drafting such an amendment and plans to ask for recommendations on the application at the full authority meeting next month, he said, adding that he expects the process to take about six months.

The planned runway expansion of about 1,700 feet is not expected to take place for years, Krauter said.

But one homeowner predicted he probably won't want to move even then.

"This is a really nice neighborhood and people have worked hard to get to this side of town," said John Biviano, 42, of Bridge Court, Catasauqua. "It's a really nice out of the way little nook."

The homes would include about 15 on Bridge Court, a short street near Sheckler Elementary School, and about 15 more along a section of Race Street extending from 15th Street to the Pantry One Food Mart in the borough.

About six homes along Race Street in Hanover Township would also be affected, he said.

Abatement programs typically use federal funds to bolster homes against airplane noise through structural improvements. But the FAA allows airports to buy homes with federal funds if noise levels exceed a "noise contour" of 65, said FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

With a "noise contour" threshold of 70, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority has room to lower its threshold. However the FAA must sign off on any adjustments because it approved the program in the first place, Krauter said.

The runway expansion plans are now undergoing an environmental assessment -- the beginning stage of the process, Krauter said. They will have to go through a preliminary engineering stage, a final engineering stage and a design phase before the expansion is carried out, he said.

Biviano said there is a lot about his community to discourage residents from moving under any circumstances.

"We're all roughly the same age and we all have picnics and pool parties," he said, adding that he also likes the Catasauqua Area School District. "You can't find this anywhere else."

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