The Rhode Island Airport Corporation won’t respond to city concerns relating to the construction of a $100 million air cargo facility south of the terminal along Strawberry Field Road West …
The Rhode Island Airport Corporation won’t respond to city concerns relating to the construction of a $100 million air cargo facility south of the terminal along Strawberry Field Road West until the Federal Aviation Administration releases responses to the environmental assessment (EA) of the development.
In a letter, City Planning Director Tom Kravitz underscored the city’s objection to the use of local roadways to service the proposed warehouse and processing center with the space to accommodate six Boeing 767 cargo jets. Trailer trucks and heavy truck traffic is seen as inhibiting development of City Centre as not only a confluence of travel modes – rail, highway and air – but an area with residential, retail and offices promoting pedestrian traffic.
“The City objects to use of local roadways to circulate freight cargo vehicles when a viable alternative exists, that being the Airport Connector which provides direct access to Interstate 95,”writes Kravtiz.
In an interview Tuesday, Mayor Frank Picozzi said the introduction of trailer truck and air cargo vehicular traffic would impair planned developments in the intermodal zone. He cited in particular the development of apartment complexes that have gained Planning Board approval resulting in more than 600 units. Picozzi said RIAC could develop a circulatory system at the airport that would put air cargo trucks on the Airport Connector without using local roads. “They just have to spend some money,” he said.
This is not the first time the city has raised the issue of traffic. At the outset of the air cargo facility plan, it registered opposition to development of a connector to Main Avenue as access to the cargo facility. Airport planners took that into consideration in designing a traffic pattern connecting directly from within airport property to the Airport Connector. This seemingly was a solution until it became apparent trailer trucks wouldn’t be able to navigate the turns to access the connector without significant modifications. Those modifications are one of the city’s proposals.
Additionally the city asks for:
Other issues raised by the city include landscaping requirements; use of ground equipment electric vehicles to reduce pollution and noise at the facility; rooftop solar on the cargo facility; and a fee in lieu of landscaping that would be used to be to fund planting of trees and vegetation locally to offset the heat island effect of the development.
Warwick resident Richard Langseth who has doggedly followed airport developments, said Monday the city has raised legitimate issues. Nonetheless, he believes RIAC has not properly pursued alternatives to the development, specifically expansion of the existing air cargo facilities even though RIAC consultants found that inadequate in the EA.
Given the prospect of reconfiguring the Airport Connector to accommodate tractor trailers, Langseth said it could be more cost effective to build at the current location on Airport Road. Longer range, Langseth is of the opinion RIAC will eventually end up developing both north and south of the terminal anyway. And when it comes to the south side of the terminal he can see RIAC taking Strawberry Field Road west.
In the EA performed by AECOM, expansion of existing cargo facilities was ruled out because of its proximity to taxiways and the runways. At an April informational session on the development, Bryan Oscarson Associate Vice President/Aviation at AECOM said “The bulk of the project is to accommodate FedEx.” He explained Green Airport would help address a “weak spot” in their coverage of Providence and the “south Boston area…“Boston is a huge market and there’s no more (room for) growth up there.”
On Monday John Goodman, RIAC Assistant Vice President of Media Relations, didn’t offer a guess as to when the FAA would complete its review of the EA and provide responses for those who have submitted comments about the plan.
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