December 18, 2014
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RIAC, FAA trim runway safety area project

Green Airport will get safety improvements to its shorter crosswind runway, but they won’t be made with the need to relocate the Post and Airport Road intersection or acquire 11 businesses and a single residence.

Interim Rhode Island Airport Corporation President Peter Frazier reported yesterday that, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the parties have arrived at a plan that will reduce the runway safety areas on Runway 16-34 without compromising safety. In addition, the plan significantly cuts projected costs and reduces the amount of impact on Buckeye Brook wetlands.

“From a value standpoint,” Frazier said, “this is an appropriate investment of agency funds for the benefits received.”

The practicality of pursuing the initial concept, which was included in the environmental impact statement and was included in the FAA’s record of decision, came into question as project manager AECOM priced out the safety project. Initial estimates for the work ranged from $69 million to $77 million.

Frazier said AECOM, which RIAC has retained to manage the safety project and an extension of the airport’s longer runway to 8,700 feet, took engineering designs a step further, putting the costs at $100 million to $110 million.

AECOM’s work on the runway extension put that project at $83 million, or $5 million less than what was being estimated in the impact statement. Design work is proceeding on the longer runway, which is projected to be operational by 2017.

But there are going to be changes to the runway safety areas on Runway 16-34.

By scaling back the length of EMAS (engineered mass arresting system) at both ends of the runway, the Post and Airport Road intersection won’t need to be relocated and the intrusion into the wetlands on the east end of the runway will be reduced. It’s the cost, however, that takes the big hit. The projected cost of the improvements drops from a high of $110 million to $44 million.

Frazier said removal of Hangar 1 would be incorporated in the new plan. The relocation of Taxiway C is being deferred.

Frazier said he has been contacting the 11 businesses and residences that would have been acquired under the initial plan to inform them that they are no longer in the path of the project. He said that the FAA would fund the work at 75 percent of cost, as RIAC requested, but funding is subject to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Frazier said there is no need to reopen the EIS, but a revaluation of impacts, which are expected to be reduced, will be done.

Design of the runway safety areas will start immediately, but construction won’t begin until the revaluation of impacts is finalized. Under the plan 400 feet of EMAS, a form of concrete block that crumbles under the weight of an aircraft, at the 16 end of the runway will be reduced to 255 feet. At the other end of the runway the EMAS will be extended from 400 to 462 feet.

The FAA deadline for Green to implement the enhanced safety areas is Dec. 31, 2015.

“We will meet that,” Frazier said confidently.

When completed, the safety areas will be comparable to those of much more heavily used runways at Logan, LaGuardia and JFK Airport, he said.

Still in question is the level of funding RIAC will receive for the runway extension. RIAC has applied for a letter of intent (LOI) that would commit the FAA to refund a set percentage of the extension cost. RIAC has asked for 75 percent funding.

“I’m comfortable we’ll get a sufficient level of funding that this project is a go,” Frazier said.

But that’s not a given.

Frazier is hopeful of hearing from the FAA in late September. Of concern is the memorandum of understanding reached with the City Council by which the council dropped its appeal for a review of the FAA decision. Under that agreement, RIAC was to have had a schedule that would give property owners a timetable for when they could expect to be acquired.

Frazier said he would hope to have those answers by the end of this month. Also, he said he has been working with Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson and the city on relocation of the Winslow Park softball and soccer fields. It was thought the fields could be relocated to the Knight Campus of CCRI, but there is not adequate space, given college priorities. Attention is now being focused on airport land that has been cleared of homes in the neighborhood accessed by Lakeshore Drive in an area that had been proposed for corporate hangars. Access to the fields would be from an extension of the road off Airport Road that currently services the maintenance garage.

Timing is critical to the projects.

Frazier said he wants to have the playing fields built and operable – they would need a season of no play before they could be used – before Winslow Park is closed. More important, from the perspective of the airport, is runway work.

“The key is we can’t have them [the runways] down at the same time,” said Frazier.

As for what impact reduced runway safety areas might have on Green, Frazier said it would not affect use of the airport by Boeing 747s, as they are capable to using the extended Runway 5-23.

“The level of safety is sufficient to meet FAA certification. We will have a safer airport,” he said.


Comments
6 comments on this item

Comes the dawn! Perhaps they should have used this new modification in the first place. Moving the intersection would have been a mammoth job. Witnessing the mistakes, delays and cost overruns by RIDOT on bridges and road projects in recent history, the less participation from DOT, the better. We look forward to word on the federal funding so the project can get going. Fifteen years late is still not too late but my how costs have climbed in that time span.

The question is what is the real requirement for the "runway extension?" Apparently the compromise for the crosswinds runway was the use of the Boeing 737-800 as the design aircraft for that project (according to a report in the ProJo). Here is the 2006 Boeing press release for that plane. It shows that the 737-800 clearly can operate from the existing main runway at Green as well as from a somewhat shorter crosswinds runway than currently laid out. There will be an environmental assessment of the change in the crosswinds runway configuration -- based on the design aircraft. There is absolutely no reason to believe that that assessment will find that the 737-800 needs a runway of more than 7,000 feet at Green. The airport will stay within its existing fence for at least the next 20 years.

This has been the major thrust of my objections for the past five years. Apparently FAA is coming to its senses -- forced to do so by a Congress unwilling to stand by and watch billions wasted on useless runway projects. Yea!

SEATTLE, July 31, 2006 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] on Friday delivered to GOL, Brazil's low-fare, low-cost airline, the first Next-Generation 737 with enhanced short runway landing and takeoff capabilities.

The 737-800 is the first of that model type delivered to GOL as the carrier augments capacity on domestic and regional international routes. It also is the first delivery of 67 737-800s the all-Boeing carrier has on order for delivery out to 2012. The airline currently operates 50 737s.

"We have worked with GOL to enhance the 737 and add value to its operations. Our partnership drove development of these enhancements that now will benefit the product line and many airlines around the world," said John Wojick, vice president Sales, Latin America and the Caribbean, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The 737 design enhancements allow operators to fly increased payload in and out of airports with runways less than 5,000 feet long. The design enhancements include a two-position tail skid that enables reduced approach speeds, sealed leading-edge slats that provide increased lift during takeoff, and increased flight spoiler deflection on the ground that improves takeoff and landing performance.

"Boeing helped us to expand our capacity on the most profitable route in Brazil, (Sao Paulo-Rio De Janeiro) while offering comfort and safety to our clients," said David Barioni, GOL's vice president, technical.

The short-field performance changes were developed starting in 2004 in response to GOL's needs at Santos Dumont airstrip in Rio de Janeiro. That 4,300-foot runway is short compared to other runways and could not accommodate larger airplanes at higher approach speeds with full payloads.

Because the 737-800 "can" operate from a 5000' runway on a short hop, lightly loaded, with clear weather and moderate temperatures and favorable winds does not mean that all an airport needs is 5000' or even 7000' The Boeing article does not address bad weather, longer flights, a variety of loading conditions, a blown tire, an sudden problem with one of the engines, all of which require more than 5000' and more than 7000'.

I understand that the Boeing article is meant to make another anti-T. F. Green statement.. Similarly, the same author points to the 7000' runway 6-27 at Boston time and again with it's over water approach and departure points that allow more useable pavement than PVD. Because that strip has been used under some conditions to reach the West Coast does not certify it for all aircraft, all weather, all loading conditions especially when there are other longer, safer runway choices at Logan ranging from 7800' to 10100' Such claims to make the anti-Green case we hear over and over. They are inaccurate and worse, irresponsible.

Well said latitude41 !!! thank you for posting. You would think Richard would be happy with the compromise. After all his precious wetlands and the stream will be "better" off.

With that said Richard will not be happy until the airport is raised and returned to farm land, or the junk yard it once was.

I think Richard should be pleased with all that has transpired regarding the airports efforts and planning. The runway expansion on the main runway to the south makes perfect sense. First off a lot of the homes have already been bought and demolished. There are some more to go and that should be known this month when that will take place. I'm sure the home owners waiting are so relieved September is finally here and they will find out a date finally.

I do hope they won't have to wait years for that to take place and this project can finally be done with.

Why any one wouldn't want a longer runway to give airplanes more wiggle room if you will is beyond me. Does Richard care if there is a problem with a plane and it skids onto main ave crashing into cars and plows into Winslow field with a field full of children playing under the fuel droplets that currently fall from the sky???

But, I'll leave it at that because I'm wasting my time trying to change Richard's mind into seeiing any other way than raising the airport and setting the cows out to pasture

On a cold dark rainy, gusty low visibility night, some of the flights I have been on have used almost every foot of the pavement to stop!

I did not choose the B-737 800 "compromise" RIAC/FAA did to save money yet address issues at Green. The money issues have not gone away. Perhaps those interested in a longer runway can approach the Rhode Island General Assembly now that the federal funds are being applied to more pressing issuesrather than supporting unproven non stop service demands at Green. Don't forget the premise of the non-stop service was the 2005 passenger counts that were about 50% higher than current loads

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