October 24, 2014
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Runway safety areas ‘considerably’ more costly than projected

Extending the safety areas on the shorter of Green Airport’s two runways is going to cost “considerably more” than the $77 million initially projected, while the $88 million estimated for extension of the main runway remains on target, Peter Frazier, interim director of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, said Tuesday.

Design of the two projects ramped up as soon RIAC and the City Council reached a memorandum of understanding in March that ended the council’s challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision approving the projects. Immediately after reaching the agreement, RIAC applied for a FAA grant for the safety improvements and a LOI, or letter of intent, that would enable the agency to bond for the runway extension with the guarantee that a portion of it – RIAC is hopeful of 75 percent funding – would be repaid by the FAA. Word on those requests is not expected until later this month.

But the higher than projected costs for the runway safety areas on Runway 16-34 raises questions over the plan to convert about seven acres of Buckeye Brook wetlands to the east and relocate the Airport and Post Road intersection on the west to meet FAA safety standards. Those standards call for a 1,000-foot safety area at both ends of the runway. However, because of space limitations, RIAC is planning to install EMAS, emergency material arresting systems, at the end of the runway; collapsing cement blocks designed to stop an aircraft that has overshot the runway. The use of EMAS reduces the space needed to meet the standard to about 600 feet.

Frazier did not say how much more the safety areas would cost, but when asked if the amount is about $100 million, he said that would qualify as considerable.

How could planners be so far off on their estimates?

Frazier explained the process of cost estimating a project is somewhat inverted as it starts with an environmental impact study, not with an engineering design. Further, as compared to the runway extension, the runway safety area is a more complex project. It involves the removal of a hangar, the acquisition of 10 businesses and a single residence, relocation of the intersection to the north in the vicinity of the Ann & Hope entrance and the filling of the wetlands.

As a result of the higher than projected estimates, Frazier said RIAC is not proceeding at this point with acquisition of the businesses and the residence. But that doesn’t mean people will be left dangling.

He said RIAC and the FAA are “collaborating” on both of the projects, adding that one of the provisions sought by the council in the agreement is a timeline for the projects.

“We’re on target with the time line,” he said, “so people’s lives won’t have to be put on hold.” Answers could be coming by the middle of this month.

Assuming the funding is approved, RIAC CEO Kevin Dillon, who left Rhode Island last month to take a similar post at the Connecticut Aviation Authority, had been hopeful of starting construction next year. Work would begin on the Post Road end of Runway 16-34, followed by the runway extension to 5-23 and then finally the safety areas on the Buckeye Brook end of the shorter runway.

Frazier cautioned, “I don’t want to create any false sense of concern.”

He said the objective is “to make the best decision possible as soon as possible.”

The runway extension, the source of more than a decade of controversy, would lengthen Runway 5-23 from 7,166 to 8,700 feet, giving airlines the capability of offering non-stop service to the West Coast. The extension to the south end of the runway would require the looping of Main Avenue. Also as part of the project, Winslow Park softball and soccer fields would be relocated. Where those fields will end up is in the process of being discussed. The Knight Campus of CCRI has been proposed, although at this point it appears the college could not accommodate all the existing fields. RIAC has designated land in the Lakeshore Drive neighborhood that it cleared of homes for the fields if an alternative site or sites can’t be found. Under the terms of the agreement, the city is to select an alternate location by September or the fields will go to the Lakeshore Drive area.

Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Ward 3 councilwoman, confirmed a recent meeting with CCRI, the city and RIAC about the fields, but did not have anything to report as of Tuesday.


Comments
11 comments on this item

This story makes no sense. The General Assembly has authorized RIAC to borrow $170 million for these projects with the $22 million glycol plant folded in. The intent was to get about $90 million from the FAA bringing the total to about $260 million. This does not include "mitigation." The EIS shows a capital plan of around $400 million. Where the extra $140 million comes from is anybody's guess.

Now RIAC is claiming that the crosswinds runway safety improvements was planned by Mr. Dillon to be $77 million but that some costs were apparently left out and now more money is needed. Several of us have been pointing this problem out for over a year now. But, the RIAC board would never listen. They were "all set" with Mr. Dillon at the helm and praised his ability to bring the project in on time and within the cost structure.

Duh... Why are we paying $300,000 for an airport executive director? We should hire a retired FBI investigator to run the airport.

THE SOONER THEY BREAK GROUND THE BETTER !!!!! SOUNDS LIKE EVERYTHING IS MOVING FORWARD WHICH IS GOOD. LOOKING FORWARD TO THE INCREASE IN JOBS, BEING ABLE TO FLY NONE STOP TO PLACES, MORE PLACES TO FLY TO, THE INCREASE IN SMALL BUSINESS IN WARWICK, THE INCREASED BUFFER ZONE FOR SAFETY. ALL GOOD STUFF.

Hey Michael - did you read the story above?

This airport expansion financing question is another example of the RIAC board attempting to hide escalating costs and lower federal grant expectations. I don't know why they play these games. It makes no sense. The governor's budget for FY-2012 shows an expected $83.4 million FAA Airport Improvement Grant. The governor's FY-2013 Budget shows that number reduced to $73.9 million for the FAA grants. That is a 12% drop in expected federal aid. More alarmingly the FY-2013 Governor's Budget shows a $50.3 million increase in the cost of the project. This item is buried from the "improvement" we all have been talking about (T.F. Green Infrastructure Expansion and Enhancement) and is labeled "T. F. Green General Improvements."

The point is that the RIAC board knew enough about this increased cost to put it into the Governor's Budget. Yet, now they are claiming that this is a new development? When you look at what the General Assembly approved, you see an increase in cost of $40 million and a decrease in addition to a drop of $10 million in federal funding. This is all in addition to the extra noise mitigation that is not discussed: $75 million. You have to tack on the glycol plant - another $25 million of which RIAC has found $3 million in federal funds and other funds to apply.

The bottom line is that the Governor's Budget is showing $294 million for this project of which $176 million is projected to be provided by FAA. Given the situation in Washington, this federal projection is shaky. And it does not include wetlands mitigation. The final number for state financing of this project is probably in the $140 million range. Given the 38 Studios disaster, the financing will double this cost for a final number including federal funding of around $330 million. And that does not include terminal improvements.

All of this set against dropping passenger counts and a Congress that is turning its attention to different priorities - such as fixing the air traffic controller situation to avoid situations like what happened at Reagan National Airport this week where an inbound plane was directed to the same runway as two outbound planes. Congress is really mad about that one!

I don't care if the State Of Rhode Island doesn't pay Studio 38 debts which is not bound by law and uses that money. It's all about priorities. The TF Green runway expansion is their top priority. As the saying goes," get er done!" So as much as you would like to see this project not go forth, and throw out frivolous figures to everyone, it is the exact opposite of what is going on. I quote you," Given the situation in Washington" What situation??? Are you referring to the President? Other than an election year (which I would think would work in favor for Federal money), there are no situations in Washington. The rest of country is recovering from the recession although there are set backs (severe drought thanks to global warming), continued military spending overseas and so forth, RI is recovering far less quickly because projects like these have not broken ground yet !!!!

For all of the people waiting for a job... I hope the airport expands soon for you.

So Michael: Now that EDC is washed up, who is going to float the $170 million in bonds that is in the approved state budget for RIAC?

Interest alone would about $13 million per year based on the 38 Studios situation. (8%) Then you need another $4 million or so for amortization to come to $17 million per year of debt service. That comes out to $10 per passenger per flight for the next 30 years -- all of which comes from parking or landing fees. Since the airlines are maxed out already and are dropping down to smaller and smaller planes to save on landing fees, the answer becomes increased parking fees. Given that only about a third of passengers actually park here - half come in from other places and many passengers come in as couples or families, that means you need to increase parking fees to about $40 per day - a number that is not unheard of at some other airports. The off site parking lots will kill you under this scenario because there is no way that RIAC can charge these businesspeople $30 per day in access fees.

This is the doomsday scenario you are painting with your vision of Rhode Island's priorities.

The RIAC, and all other parties associated with this fraud need a GROUPON on getaway to Danbury for about 10 years. Calling Peter Nehrona, here is your wake up call. The idiots on RIAC board of directors are either incompetent or willful parties to gross financial malfeasance by going along to get along with this charade. The only thing that needs to come of this is indictments.

I know how badly people want more flight options but there is one thing that has been missing since all the talks started and the airport corp sold us this great idea. What airlines have made a commitment to actually add flights and to come back to RI? The only international flights today are an 18 seat prop plane to Toronto 1 to 2 times a day. Most airlines have cut back the plane to small jets which will not fly across the country non-stop. If we build it, will anyone come?

I know how badly people want more flight options but there is one thing that has been missing since all the talks started and the airport corp sold us this great idea. What airlines have made a commitment to actually add flights and to come back to RI? The only international flights today are an 18 seat prop plane to Toronto 1 to 2 times a day. Most airlines have cut back the plane to small jets which will not fly across the country non-stop. If we build it, will anyone come?

who cares about where they are going to put the ball fields this air port should be in north kingston

dear mr perky. the people who children who play sports at those fields and also use those fields themselves care about the ballfiieds. do yourself a favor and think before you write inconsidirate comments sunshine

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