In a race against time, Mayor Frank Picozzi has retained Steven M. Taber, who was instrumental in crafting a an agreement with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation leading to an extended runway at …
In a race against time, Mayor Frank Picozzi has retained Steven M. Taber, who was instrumental in crafting a an agreement with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation leading to an extended runway at Green Airport, to examine RIAC’s plan to build a $100 million air cargo facility bordering Strawberry Field Road West.
“He’s an expert. He will tell us what options we have,” Picozzi said of Taber, who was retained on Thursday to conduct an analysis of the air cargo plan Environmental Assessment, EA, and “the rights of the city.” The report will be delivered to the city this Friday and should the city decide to contest aspects of the cargo proposal it has the option of having Taber and his legal team, Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl of Pasadena, CA, represent the city.
But, there’s not a lot of time if the administration wants the Federal Aviation Administration, which has already issued a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) on June 12 of the cargo facility plan that virtually gives RIAC the green light, to proceed with the development. For the FAA to further consider issues raised by Warwick, the city must file for a Petition for Review.
The deadline to file the petition is a week from this Friday, Aug 11.
In his letter to the city, Taber recognizes the narrow window, saying his analysis will be completed by tomorrow, “in order to allow one week for the city to decide whether to file a Petition for Review.”
Traffic tops the mayor’s concerns with the siting of the cargo facility. He wants trucks arriving and leaving the facility to use the Airport Connector to Route 95, not local roads. Using Post Road and the Coronado Road connector to Jefferson Boulevard would have trailer trucks in the heart of City Centre, which, after decades, is showing signs of major hotel and housing developments. Adding trailer trucks would not be conducive to a pedestrian friendly center.
City Planner Tom Kravitz, who played a role in drafting the agreement with Taber, listed air quality, noise mitigation and the extension of an earthen berm along the Strawberry Field Road West side of the site as additional issues in responding to the FAA’s FONSI. These were matters the city raised during review of the cargo plan. However, the city was less than happy with the FAA’s responses.
In response to city concerns, RIAC revised the internal traffic pattern with a rotary in the vicinity of the ramps to the Airport Connector enabling tractor trailers to access the connector. Kravitz questions whether they will work.
Kravitz said the initial analysis and report will cost $14,700, not including travel and other expenses. Should the administration elect to file for a petition of review, Taber projects the cost would range from a low of $114,100 to as much as $159,740. Preparation for mediation, the next step following the filing of the petition, would be $35,000 to $49,000.
In his letter of agreement, Taber writes that the analysis will focus on:
The report will also include a summary of the laws, rules and regulations governing the EA and recommendations to address issues raised by the review.
Much of what was a long term parking lot is the site for air cargo operations that would be relocated and expanded from operations currently north of the terminal bordering Airport Road. A 100,000 square foot building with loading docks on the south side facing residences and space for six Boeing 767 cargo jets facing the terminal would largely accommodate FedEx operations.
The EA prepared by RIAC ruled out expansion of the existing Airport Road operation on grounds that it would be insufficient and could encroach on the east/west runway.