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The Green Airport NIMBY runway issue

December 9, 2011

For years, Rhode Island’s Not-In My Backyard attitudes have hurt economic development in our cozy state. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay takes us to T.F. Green State Airport for the latest.

With Rhode Island mired in a stubborn recession, it’s great to know that   some of our leaders are trying to do something to create jobs and build a solid transportation infrastructure for the future.

The plan to extend the runway at Green Airport is just that. This project would pump $166 million into our foundering economy with major construction. Once the project is done, it would establish a template for future economic activity by bringing more jets to our airport.

And it would fit perfectly with the train and automobile hub near the airport and Route 95 that the federal and state governments have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into over the past two decades.

If you don’t think a thriving airport is critical to a state’s economy, we take you to Cincinnati, the longtime home of   Chiquita Brands International, the iconic company that is synonymous with bananas. Chiquita is leaving Ohio and taking its headquarters and 400 jobs to Charlotte, North Carolina. A major reason for the move: Charlotte has a better airport with more flights. While daily flights to Cincinnati have dropped from about 600 a few years back to less than 200 today. Charlotte’s airport has added flights and now has about 700 daily flights.

The runway extension could be the fulcrum to bringing new airlines and jet traffic to the airport. This project has the support of just about every political and business leader in the state. The federal government has approved the plan.

Governor Chafee says it is a crucial element in bringing jobs to Rhode Island.

So what’s the hold up? Look no further than the Warwick City Council.

After more than 10 years of federal hearings covering every aspect of the runway extension, the city council in Warwick, home to the airport, is tossing a last-minute monkey wrench into the project.

The council recently voted to hire a California law firm to challenge the Federal Aviation Administration decision giving a green light to the project. Council members assert that some issues, including environmental concerns, were not properly addressed in the process of granting runway extension approval.

This project was the subject of 10 years of hearings and legal challenges. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian opposes the council intervention. He says the city has a scant chance of winning legally and that the council is wasting money on lawyers.

Green Airport has been an economic generator for Rhode Island since the early 1990s, when then-Governor Bruce Sundlun led a big, costly upgrade of the aging airport.

Now, Governor Chafee and Dr. Kathleen Hittner, chairwoman of the airport corporation, have been aggressively courting new airlines and related businesses. Hittner and Chafee met with top executives of Jet Blue in hopes of luring the discount airline to Green.

But no new airlines are coming to an airport where the runways aren’t long enough to accommodate big jets.

The land around the airport is ripe for job-generating economic development that could also add to Warwick’s commercial tax rolls and stabilize property taxes for home owners, says  Chafee.

In a global economy, it is obvious that having a strong transportation network is an economic advantage. It would be nice if   the Warwick City Council could shed its NIMBYISM and wake up to the fact that there are jobs at the end of that runway.

Scott MacKay’s political commentary runs every Monday on Morning Edition at 6:40 and 7:40. You can also follow his commentary and political reporting at RIPR’s `On Politics’ blog.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mister Guy permalink
    December 9, 2011 8:22 pm

    Having Jet Blue at PVD may lower airline rates, but mostly for trips to & from the NYC area. The airports in the NYC area don’t have the extra capacity for really any new flights, so any flights to & from PVD would likely have to come at the expense of other, existing flights.

    The Warwick City Council is foolish to challenge PVD’s runway expansion in any event though.

  2. froosh permalink
    December 10, 2011 11:30 am

    Foolishness is always expected from the Warwick City Council.

  3. December 11, 2011 12:21 am

    The battle ws lost a long time ago when the state should have bult a new international-type modern airport at Quonset on the old naval reservation.

    Be that as it was governor Sundlun was right to upgrade T.F. Greene. So the runway extension should be done, the City Council is playing to the home folks, not to the future.

    But,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I am glad I don’t live near the airport ! I have friends and family who do and they have gotten used to low-flying aircraft.

    The City Council could show more concern by supporting fair buy-outs of property for home owners in the path of and around the planned runway extension.. The increased business that would come with more flights would justify the new train statiion in Warwick which now appears under-used.

  4. roodiekazoodie permalink
    December 19, 2011 6:18 pm

    the city council of warwick should be fired. they should be sitting on the side lines looking for a job, and have no income to better understand the overall situation. small people with too much power. unemployment in state over 10% and they vote to not create jobs, and not to increase revenue for warwick and the state. you got to wonder how these people got into office. mayor avedisian needs to knock heads at city council

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