from yesterday's inbox:
Lentz, GAO Say Throwing Dirt on PHL’s Congestion Problems Is No Long Term Fix
City of Philadelphia slated to spend 5.2 billion federal dollars to put dirt in the Delaware River to build new runway at Philadelphia International Airport
On the final day to comment on the FAA’s proposal to expand the airport, and coincidentally on the one year anniversary of Tinicum Township and Delaware County’s lawsuit filed against the city of Philadelphia to prevent further encroachment into Tinicum by the Philadelphia Airport, state Representative Bryan Lentz cites the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in opposing airport expansion.
“The study references the city’s plan for the region and Philadelphia International Airport. It can be summarized as follows: There is no plan,” stated Rep. Lentz (D-161st District). “The long-term solution to this problem is not airport expansion. It is regional planning and integration of airport systems, and regional integration of airports with other transportation systems such as high-speed rail and mass transit.
The GAO report illustrates how this approach has worked in other cities and regions but has been ignored – worse yet rejected by Philadelphia. Instead, the city with the support of the FAA proposes to spend 5.2 billion FEDERAL dollars to put dirt in the Delaware River to build an additional runway at Philadelphia International Airport.”
The study released, “National Airspace System: Regional Airport Planning Could Address Congestion If Plans Were Integrated with FAA and Airport Decision Making” was prompted as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) prediction that the United States’ national airspace systems are on track to become congested beyond their capacity. The GAO was asked to evaluate regional airport planning in congested metropolitan areas like Philadelphia.
“In 2009 Philadelphia International Airport registered 492,000 take-offs and landings; this number is expected to increase to be over 735,000 by the year 2035.,” said Lentz. “Congestion is a serious problem. On the micro-level, passengers are inconvenienced by delays but on a regional basis airports operate as a system and a flight delayed in Philadelphia can affect a traveler in another part of the country. These delays impose economic costs on passengers, airlines, airports and the economy.”
The FAA identified fourteen airports that will experience significant capacity constraint by 2025. Within the fourteen, the GAO report identified several regions that have or will have significantly congested airports including: Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia. The GAO also studied the regional airport planning in Boston.
“The Boston region was part of the study not because of a congestion problem but because they have solved their congestion problem through successful regional airport planning,” said Lentz. “We have the infrastructure in place to expand our reliance on high-speed rail and ample, underused regional airports-Lehigh Valley, Wilmington, Willow Grove, and Atlantic City to name a few.”
The FAA played an important role in Boston by supporting regional airport planning and incorporating the regional approach into its decision making for airport capital improvements. The regional airport planning in Boston was led by local airports and facilitated by the FAA’s regional office, which provided the necessary funding and took a lead role in “demand studies” and the Regional Airport System Plan (RASP).
Massport officials are quick to point out that the regional airports would have been reluctant to participate had the FAA not become involved. Locally, Philadelphia International Airport which is owned and operated by the city of Philadelphia has repeatedly rejected this approach.
According to the GAO report, “Airport officials in Philadelphia told us that they do not want to support federal efforts, including regional airport planning, that could lead to losing or diverting flights from their airport to other airports in the region.”
“This kind of short-sighted thinking is unacceptable for our region.,” continued Lentz. “We will not be a first-class regional economy without a first-class transportation system. Dumping 5.2 billion dollars into the Delaware River is not the path to a first-class system. That money should go into linking our regional rail system and transforming our regional system of airports along the lines of the Boston model. To do otherwise will handicap our region for years.”
Today, Rep. Lentz sent a letter citing the GAO report to the FAA’s Environmental Protection Specialist, Sue McDonald, who has been avoiding addressing Lentz’s objections to date.