Massachusetts Port Authority Executive Director and CEO Virginia Buckingham today testified before congressional leaders and outlined the obstacles to building a new runway that would significantly reduce delays at Logan International Airport. At the hearing, held by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to examine delays in approving runway projects, Buckingham called for federal authorities to make the construction of runways a national priority. In her testimony, she urged the Federal Aviation Administration to take a lead role in moving these vital infrastructure projects forward as the nation faces record air travel delays.
"Almost a year ago to this day, the FAA testified before this committee and said that if airports are ever going to be improved, "hard choices" will have to be made at all levels of government with the community," said Buckingham. "If the FAA is waiting for a 'popular runway' to approve, it has a long wait. It is incumbent upon airports and the FAA to make the 'hard choices'."
Buckingham also made the case for a clear and finite environmental process that deals with community concerns while not leaving runway projects in limbo.
"Logan is an urban airport surrounded on three sides by family residences. We understand that this obligates us to undertake demanding environmental and public review processes whenever we build more parking, or expand a passenger terminal, or improve aroadway -- or even think about adding a new runway," said Buckingham. "Yet, where once there was no process when the runway was first introduced in 1970, now the process never ends."
On the drawing board for thirty years, Logan's proposed runway 14/32 is currently under review by an FAA citizen's panel consisting of three runway opponents and three proponents. The panel was convened after the FAA interrupted its normal regulatory process in January 2000, weeks before Massport was to file the final environmental documents necessary for FAA approval.
"We are very committed to a public process in cooperation with the FAA," said Buckingham. "But the process must be clear. It must be consistent. It must have an end."
Buckingham pointed out that Massport had already exceeded the requirements of the regulatory process by completing an extensive environmental analysis and holding more than 100 public meetings on the runway with more than 3,000 participants.
The proposed 5,000-foot runway will alleviate delays at Logan, the 8th most delayed airport in the nation, by approximately 30% without increasing the airport's overall capacity. The runway addresses delays incurred by northwest winds when Logan's air traffic controllers are limited to using only two, and sometimes, one runway, rather than the airport's optimum three runway configuration. The runway will be limited to unidirectional use, with all takeoffs and landings over the water. The runway will allow controllers to move 75,000 more flights a year over the water and away from neighboring communities.