Residents Oppose Runway Plan for Willow Run Airport

Changes to a proposed runway extension at Willow Run Airport still face resistance from nearby residents, who criticized the plan at a public workshop Tuesday evening.

The 2-hour session at a Belleville hotel was largely attended by Willow Run tenants and area residents.

Residents critiqued the Wayne County Airport Authority's latest master plan, which includes extending a runway that parallels Ecorse Road.

Sean Brosnan, director of the airport, and Michael Conway, director of public affairs, touted the new plan. They said the new 20-year, $77-million project is more efficient and less intrusive than a previous controversial expansion.

Conway said most of Willow Run's tenants transport cargo from parts suppliers working with the Big Three automakers.

In addition to the runway extension, the new master plan eliminates two existing runways and includes upgraded airfield lighting, instrument upgrades, runway improvements, safety area upgrades, a new fire station and a new snow removal equipment facility.

The previous plan, under fire from residents for more than a decade, would have directed departing planes toward Canton Township. The revised plan routes takeoffs around Canton.

The new plan's extended runway would allow larger international cargo planes to fly out of Willow Run directly to their overseas destinations.

That could produce a substantial savings for air carriers at Willow Run, said Preston Murray, president of Murray Air.

But Canton residents William Mosher and Gordon Libby, who helped kill the original plan, said they hope to scuttle the new one, also.

"They're trying to create something larger in an area not big enough," Libby said.

Opponents say more flights with larger planes will produce unreasonable noise in Canton and surrounding areas.

Residents and authority officials will now wait for a decision from the Federal Aviation Administration on the proposed expansion. No decision is expected until 2009, said authority officials.

Detroit Free Press

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