Soundproofing is failing

Posted 3/30/23

To the Editor,

“Not our problem," says RIAC!

Remember the TV adds showing a smoke-belching air-conditioning unit and the guy saying, “Not our problem?” You could put him in a …

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Soundproofing is failing


To the Editor,

“Not our problem," says RIAC!

Remember the TV adds showing a smoke-belching air-conditioning unit and the guy saying, “Not our problem?” You could put him in a RIAC jumpsuit and you've captured the situation at T.F. Green International Airport.

Twenty-three years ago, the FAA agreed to a noise plan for T.F. Green. It was a community effort. Meetings between RIAC and neighborhood groups were genial. Discussions were productive. Promises were made for “soundproofing” homes, for buyouts and curfews. A promise was made to update the noise contours every two years.

All of this has melted away.  Window frames are cracking in the sun, distorted by air pollution around the airport. Air-conditioning units have broken down with no spare parts. Neighbors are complaining. 1:30 a.m. arrivals. 5:00 a.m. departures -- the curfew a distant memory like the snows of years past.

FAA studies show that the RIAC-style soundproofing is good for only about 20 years. They tell you to read the fine print. The noise plan clearly states that there will be no fixes for broken air seals and conditioners.

Soon, if not already, there may be hundreds of Warwick residents around the airport with broken soundproofing systems.  The FAA suggests that you speak to your Congressional delegation. There is no money to fix the old and new problems.

Something else has popped up: FedEx wants to move its south of Boston air-side operations to T.F. Green. This means a claimed two new air freighters per day to the roaring tune of $100 million for those two flights.

Clearly, that operation could occur on the north side of the airport where the freight belongs. Perhaps there could be a small tunnel under Airport Road to convey the air transport pallets and containers, much like the steam tunnels of the old mills that were once at Hillsgrove, across from the Interlink.

But no. RIAC prefers to erect a 100,000 sq.-ft.-facility right up against the Strawberry Field Road/Palace Avenue neighborhood of hundreds of homes. Many of these homes within the noise corridor are not soundproofed. Yet RIAC has no plan to do so. Their plan is to instead build a berm, which offers partial protection for about five houses while possibly trapping jet fumes on the summer ocean breezes.

And what of the other 95 homes? Not our problem, says RIAC.   That 23-year-old noise plan – the one with the every-two-year requirement to update the noise corridor? Forget it. We're not looking at that.

Four years ago, The Beacon reported that during a Master Plan "workshop," Councilperson Jeremy Rix asked RIAC's consultants what could be done about the 1:30 a.m. passenger plane arrival at T.F. Green. RIAC’s Vice President of Planning, Christine Vitt, answered:

“The airport remains open to operations 24-7 … the curfew is strictly voluntary.”

John Howell, publisher of the Beacon, reported that Ms. Vitt stated at the 2019 workshop that “adjustments in the noise contours … would be updated after completion of the (Master) Plan, but she cautioned: "I don’t want to send out false hopes [of home purchases] out there."

Mr. Howe, the City Councilperson for the neighborhood, has failed to address the curfew and the noise contour updates. He never talks about the failing soundproofing in his neighborhood. This became a campaign issue that went unanswered.

Has he read RIAC’s noise agreement, with the curfew and the requirements for updated noise contours? Is he aware of RIAC’s broken commitment to redo the contours for the new Master Plan?

And where is the Mayor on this failing soundproofing issue?    He is said to be an expert on such home improvements. We all need to get together to help out the citizens of our city who suffer interruptions to their sleep all night long at RIAC’s hands.

Failing soundproofing can’t be fixed by RIAC. But the crazy plan for a bustling air cargo facility, the curfew issues, and the noise contours need to be addressed.  It becomes our problem.

Richard Langseth


letter, letters


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