With the New Year, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) will start planning for the sound insulation of about 440 homes at roughly $50,000 each for what promises to pump more than $20 million into the local economy in the next four years.
“This could be a nice jobs program,” interim RIAC CEO Peter Frazier said last week. He said the homes are all within the 65-decibel airport noise contour as projected for an extension to the main runway. If the extension of the runway and the soundproofing program are completed on schedule, they both would be done by 2017.
This will be the airport’s first soundproofing program in at least eight years if not longer. While there have been houses within the noise contour eligible for soundproofing, and 629 houses have been insulated up until this point, in the past decade, RIAC has concentrated on its voluntary acquisition program of houses in the 70-decibel contour.
Continuation of noise insulation under a stepped up program to coincide with the runway extension was part of the agreement the City Council reached with RIAC. Under the agreement, the council wanted a timetable for the sound insulation and home acquisitions, as well as other provisions, in exchange for not contesting the runway extension.
Frazier said RIAC is in the process of retaining a firm that will coordinate the sound insulation program. The company will set a schedule for the work, seek bids for the job, work with homeowners and oversee the work to be done. He estimated about 100 homes would be done each year beginning as soon as this coming February.
The job usually includes replacement windows, insulated doors and the installation of central air conditioning.
Frazier said under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, homes within the 65dnl contour would first be evaluated to determine whether soundproofing is necessary. Some properties, he observed, may already be sufficiently insulated and may not benefit from additional work.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson is pleased with Frazier’s intent to get the program up and running with the New Year.
“I don’t want it like the last go around and to take 10 years,” she said.
Vella-Wilkinson has found it easy to work with Frazier. She said he’s “not as quick on the draw to say no” to suggestions she and others make.
“He’s giving us the information … he’s looking to build bridges.”
Frazier said homes would be done in logical clusters. The only way he could see where fewer than all the homes within the contour are sound insulated, is if the program were eliminated.
Sound insulation is part of a $30 million FAA grant announced earlier this year by Senator Jack Reed. The funds are to be matched with RIAC funds on a basis of 20 percent RIAC funding and in addition to sound insulation will be used for the voluntary home acquisition program.
In mid September, Reed announced a $5 million FAA grant for the acquisition of homes under the voluntary program.