BWI RoundTable tactic may be too clever by half, a better way may exist

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Neighbors petition Maryland Aviation Administration to halt BWI expansion until NextGen issues are resolved

RoundTable tactic born of frustration

Too Clever by Half tactic could harm Baltimore

Win/Win approaches exist

The DC Metroplex BWI Community RoundTable (RoundTable)has filed an interesting Petition to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA). The RoundTable is an initiative of MAA, at the request FAA to:

  • Monitor the implementation of air traffic procedures established by the FAA DC Metroplex Project, including but not limited to the procedures implemented under the NextGen program
  • Identify possible alternative routings and procedures;
  • Evaluate noise effects and other environmental effects, of possible route changes;

and

  • Make recommendations to the FAA for further consideration.

The group petitioned the MAA, which is also the sponsor of BWI, to halt the $60 million renovation and expansion project .

Recently. the Board of Public Works voted 2-1 to fund the project. Two of the DPW members, Gov. Larry Hogan, and State Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted aye, but State Controller Franchot voted against the proposal. All voiced on the record their significant concerns about the impact of NextGen and Franchot voted “no” to send a message to the FAA. Hogan told Franchot he was “punishing the wrong people” with his vote. The governor said the state has filed suit against the FAA to try to get the federal government to change the flight patterns.

“It should have never happened,” Hogan said of the new flight patterns. “But this project today has nothing to do with the flight patterns. The purpose of this is customer service. … To hold up this project would be a disaster in my opinion.”

 

BWI CEO Ricky Smith said the renovations to the Southwest Airlines terminal would upgrade an aging baggage system at the airport that has caused long waits for some passengers. He said bathrooms and the food court also would be expanded.

“The terminal is failing from a customer service standpoint,” Smith told the board. “The restrooms are overcrowded. People are walking over each in the food court. There’s no place to sit. … The baggage handling system has all but failed. I had a conversation with a gentleman the other day who said he waited three hours to get his bags.

There is no direct connection between the $60 million and the NextGen noise, although one might argue that the added landside capacity would result in more flights.

The RoundTable has been frustrated by the FAA, particularly after being cut off from further talks. The federal government “explained that they will not negotiate when the other party initiates litigation. At the direction of the Governor instructed Attorney General Brian Frosh to file a pair of petitions last month asking the agency to readjust flight paths to reduce the noise. These dialogues nationally have been reported as less than salubrious and the underlying FAA measurement standards may not be appropriate for RNP flight tracks. At that point, it is likely that the RoundTable sought some way to be heard.

Any community group has little leverage against a federal agency. Members of Congress can sabre rattle, but given the current deadlock, it is virtually impossible to enact something targeted at a local dispute. A common way to try to get the attention of a federal agency is to file a lawsuit. Even if a state or local government leads the suit, it is tough to beat the FAA in a US District Court or US Court of Appeals. A civic group or even some plaintiff governments will have to hire lawyers learned in the way of attacking the FAA. Usually those trial lawyers are expensive.

Someone grasped at the threat of cancelling the BWI expansion plan. The rationale? That will annoy the FAA; they like to spend the airport dollars. Right? Not really, maybe stopping a new runway or extension is close enough to the FAA’s mission to expand aviation capacity.

 

The $60M will be spent on additional terminal space needed to handle the strong demand for Southwest’s flights there. Withdrawing the request for AIP funds may annoy some FAA staff, but there may be other consequences is DPW reverses its vote on the expansion plan:

  1. The loss of this expected terminal space may cause Southwest to move the new increased seating and QUIETER Boeing 737 MAX8s to other airports. Many, many airports want more Southwest flights; a problem at BWI will be gladly received by those alternatives!
  2. Refusing the AIP grant will free those dollars for projects at other airports.
  3. An abrupt change in funding, especially grants already programmed, may cause the FAA to lessen its ranking of a renewed support of the $60 request and for future BWI applications for other projects. Some of the dollars allocated for airports are categorized as discretionary grants. Having fouled the FAA’s process, the BWI position on this prioritized list could be lowered. The long term consequences could be detrimental to Baltimore’s economy.

 

No doubt about it, someone very frustrated devised a very clever way to get notice of the RoundTable’s treatment. But the tactic may be “too clever by half.” It appears to be myopic and potentially destructive to jobs in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most efficacious way to solve this sort of problem is not confrontation; rather, getting experts who speak the FAA AT arcane language, who will understand the community’s problem and who can design win/win options has a greater likelihood of incorporating local noise goals and fitting within the FAA demanding parameters.



 

 

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3 Comments on "BWI RoundTable tactic may be too clever by half, a better way may exist"

  1. Barbara Deckert | September 12, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Reply

    Get your facts straight. The MAA lied to the BWI Roundtable for 18 months by hiding its intentions to expand operations in the midst of a noise crisis. After heated grilling at the July Roundtable meeting, MAA employees reluctantly admitted that this “renovation” was in truth an intended expansion, since there would be a net increase of five new gates. Unless we witnessed mere political theatre at the Board of Public Works vote a couple of days later, it was only because of a frenzy of late night emails from people who attended the RT meeting to the three BPW members to warn them of the MAA’s backdoor expansion that an amendment to require the MAA to seek permission before expansion was passed. More gates means more planes means more noise. The noise issue at BWI has nothing to do with jobs, the economy, or the location of the airport. Just three years ago, BWI did not have a noise problem. What has changed is the FAA’s NextGen boondoggle: concentrated flightpaths at low altitudes over heavily populated areas for 20-25 miles out where there were no planes before. The MAA knew what was coming and helped inflict this on us anyway. We are all tired of their unprofessional and unethical hornswoggle, such as backdoor expansion, no working noise monitoring system since planning for NextGen started, years of Noise Reports with no noise data, bogus noise zone maps, and a failure to address an 8,000% increase in noise complaints. That percent is going way up. Since the launch of airnoise.io in our area, residents have filed over 22,000 noise complaints in just five weeks. Read the Petition. It is clever. The MAA is not. They need to learn that they serve all the citizens of the State of Maryland, not just travelers and the airlines. We will not be the sacrificial lambs who are slaughtered to spare the holy cash cow that is BWI.

  2. There is good research to support that chronic exposure to excessive noise, such as that created by the NextGen flight paths, is damaging to human health. Hearing loss, increased cardiovascular disease, increased stress hormones, sleep deprivation, mood and concentration deficits all can result. This should concern our legislators as these health risks take a toll on their constituents no less than air or water pollution. If jobs and productivity are a concern for the legislators and for Governor Hogan, they should wonder what the loss of productivity, is like among the stressed out and sleep-deprived, workers who live and work in the chronically noise-polluted NextGen pathways. I understand why the Petitioners want action on NextGen before BWI expands.

  3. I will not fly Southwest since 80% of the noise over my house is Southwest and they have shown absolutely no empathy to anyone living under the new NextGen corridors, not because of anything stated in the article. One person misplaces his bag and the State spends $60 mil for a new concourse? Ask Mr. Smith about the reduced taxes on jet fuel to encourage Southwest to expand flights. Thank you Mr. Franchot for standing up for the people of Maryland.

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