Governor Carcieri said yesterday that the state will continue to explore runway extensions at T.F. Green Airport shorter than the length being proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, despite an FAA report last week that stated that shorter extensions would be unworkable.
Carcieri also said that it was "unlikely" that the FAA will end up with approvals for the 9,350-foot runway it is currently studying.
The FAA is studying the environmental impact of extending the main runway at T.F. Green to allow airlines to provide nonstop coast-to-coast service. In April, Mayor Scott Avedisian and Carcieri had asked the FAA to explore options for a slightly shorter runway, which would have a less dramatic impact on the residential areas surrounding the airport.
Carcieri met with Avedisian yesterday morning and assured the mayor that despite the FAA report, he would still press for runway alternatives shorter than the 9,350 foot minimum that FAA consultant Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. said was necessary to make the project worthwhile.
"I strongly believe that we must look at all the possible runway extension options before we make any decisions," Carcieri said. "I support Mayor Avedisian's belief that we cannot be locked into studying only one extension option."
Carcieri stressed that the FAA may decide on its own that a 9,350-foot runway has too much impact on the community. But if it does not, he promised to direct the Rhode Island Airport Corporation to then go back and use FAA data to conduct its own study into shorter extensions, even if it delays the process somewhat.
"Even in the unlikely event that the FAA determines that a 9,350-foot runway meets the airports future needs, and doesn't -- under their criteria -- carry too many local impacts, we will still study shorter runway extension options," the governor said. "In particular, after the completion of the federally-regulated environmental impact study, I will insist that the Rhode Island Airport Corporation require an analysis of the costs and benefits of shorter extension options."
The FAA's consultant had put out five options for 9,350-foot runways, all requiring some combination of taking homes around the airport, affecting local wetlands, and forcing roads to be moved or tunneled. Avedisian said that it could result in up to 359 homes being taken, and environmental damage to the city.
"I am grateful that the governor continues to see the concerns of the City of Warwick, and is willing to consider any and all alternatives to the proposed 9,350-foot runway expansion at T.F. Green State Airport," Avedisian said yesterday.
Last week, VHB came before a meeting of state and federal agencies involved, and explained that FAA weight penalties governing takeoffs would force airlines to embargo seats and run their planes at less than capacity. This would lead to airlines choosing to fly from other airports, VHB said.
Avedisian disagreed, and said he would meet with the governor to discuss the findings.
After yesterday's meeting, the Warwick mayor said he was encouraged.
"The willingness of the governor to look at the city's concerns and to assure me that our concerns will be considered in the EIS analysis is a positive development for the city," Avedisian said.
Avedisian added, "while I am disappointed that the analysis that the governor and I had asked of the FAA did not produce more positive answers to the concerns raised by the city, I am heartened by Governor Carcieri's genuine care and concern for the people of Warwick."
The FAA is now evaluating the environmental consequences of the runway alternatives, and what can be done to mitigate the impacts. That study should be complete by the spring. The agency will settle on the preferred alternative by next summer.
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