New $1.1 Billion Runway Lies Quiet in St. Louis

The new runway's distance from most other gates is the primary reason few pilots are using it.

Lost in vain?

Sara Barwinski, whose Bridgeton home was among 2,000 structures razed for the new runway, said its 5 percent usage makes her wonder if her neighborhood was lost in vain. The airport still has 22 parcels left to buy in the runway buyout area. Of those, 13 are in condemnation.

Barwinski, who protested the runway by picketing the airport in the 1990s, long argued that the project was not needed.

"I almost wish I could say I'm shocked, but all along we knew the number of flights (was) going down," she said.

Runway opponents in St. Charles argued that a new runway would bring airport noise to their living rooms. But the most complaints this summer, between June 1 and Oct. 15, came from north St. Louis County, according to airport call data.

Bridgeton had 84 complaints from 32 residents. St. John had 32 complaints from 13 residents.

In St. Charles, 11 complaints came from eight households.

Lambert has microphones at 20 noise-monitoring locations, stretching from the intersection of Belwood and Kirkland drives in Normandy to Blanchette Park in St. Charles. Officials expect to know after May 2008 how much the new runway has raised noise levels.

Rosenthal said use of the new runway should pick up this winter. Snowy weather often reduces visibility. It's in those conditions that one of the two older runways sometimes closes.

Even so, closing one runway doesn't have the impact that it did in 2001, when its number of boardings made Lambert the 11th-busiest airport in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. These days, Lambert ranks 31st.

"If it went away tomorrow, we wouldn't miss it," Rosenthal said of the new runway. "It shouldn't need resurfacing for many, many years."

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