Dane County Launches Airport Noise Study; First Update in 30 Years to Account For F-35 Jets

April 26, 2022

Apr. 25—With a fleet of new fighter jets expected to arrive next year, Dane County officials have begun updating a 30-year-old plan for limiting noise pollution around Madison's airport and Air National Guard facility.

County contractors will spend the next two years evaluating noise levels in neighborhoods around the Dane County Regional Airport and Truax Field based on current and forecast air traffic levels. The resulting map will help determine eligibility for federally funded noise-mitigation efforts.

The airport will host an open house Tuesday to provide more information on the study and answer questions about the federal guidelines for the process.

"This is us trying to explain what's going to be happening over the next couple of years," said airport spokesperson Michael Riechers.

According to the airport's timeline, new noise maps should be available for public comment in the fall before being submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration by the end of this year. A noise-compatibility plan should be available for public comment in late 2023.

The study is independent of the airport's noise complaint process and public noise abatement meetings, which are scheduled to resume this fall nearly three years after being suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing is scheduled to receive a new squadron of F-35A fighter jets next spring to replace its aging fleet of F-16s at Truax. According to the Air Force's environmental review, the new — and arguably louder — jets will expose more than 1,000 households to unhealthy levels of noise.

The noise study is intended to measure the impact of the new jets, which are expected to take off and land 27% more than the current jets, at least initially.

The study will also account for noise from commercial jets using the county airport.

"Even commercial jets have come a long way in terms of efficiency and noise," Riechers said, noting that flight volumes have also changed since the last study was completed in 1993. "Which is why we need to do a new study and see where the airport's at."

Burlington, Vermont, which became host to a squadron of F-35 jets in 2019, last year released a plan to offer voluntary insulation for some 2,627 homes exposed to unhealthy noise levels. The plan anticipates it will take 26 years to insulate all eligible homes at a total cost of about $85 million.



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