lack of aviation input contributes to Myopia
Static approach, ignores existing assets
reason for closing TEB lacks substance
“An influential planning group recommends phasing out general aviation operations at Teterboro Airport, shifting its flights to the region’s three major airports and expanding both Newark Liberty and JFK to absorb the traffic.
The Regional Plan Association made the recommendation in a report Monday on the region’s airports, noting that Teterboro would eventually be inundated by rising sea levels. The small relief airport is popular with business jet owners and travelers because of its proximity to Manhattan.
“The cost of maintaining Teterboro, both financially and environmentally, will be increasingly hard to justify with rising sea levels, and should eventually result in closing the airport,” the association said in its report. “Over the next 20 to 30 years the airport will slowly start to lose its battle with sea-level rise and will need to be replaced.”
The group’s plan involves building a new runway and midfield concourse at Newark, as well as improving the airport’s connection to passenger rail. It also envisions two new runways at JFK, where terminals would be expanded, consolidated and connected.”
The RPA has been a fixture of long term strategic visions since the 1920s; its trach record includes the location of the George Washington Bridge, several major road transportation infrastructure proposals, renewal of several of the deteriorated communities in the region. Its Fourth Plan is the most recent in a series:
- The First Plan in 1929 provided a guide for the area’s road and transportation network.
- The Second Plan, published as a series of reports in the 1960s, aimed at restructuring mass transit and reinvigorating deteriorating urban centers.
- The Third Plan in 1996, “A Region at Risk,” recommended improving regional mass transit, increasing protection of open space and maintaining employment in traditional urban centers.
Without delving into the details of this proposal, it is apparent that its recommendations should not be accorded BIBLICAL STATUS. Interesting findings worthy of debate, but totally lacking in a consensus likely to generate the level of support needed to use it as a blueprint for implementation.
- Absence of Aviation Input
Upgrading to World Class-The Future of the Region’s Airports Revisited is a segment of the Fourth Plan which focuses on aviation.
Here is the report’s Acknowledgement List—
While the National Park Service is a participant, no support from the US Department of Transportation, the FAA or any of the Two State Aviation Departments. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which curiously Governor Cuomo threatened in 2016 to decrease its independence, participated as the owner/operator/manager of ACY, EWR, JFK, LGA, SWF and TEB (all within the RPA study), did.
The list of contributors is bereft of the tenants of the airports (airlines in particular- A4A), users of this aviation system (AOPA, NATA, NBAA), the developers/manufacturers of the NextGen technology (experts of what the parameters of the future ATC systems), the pilots (primarily ALPA) or the controllers (NATCA). Even though the acknowledged participants mention airport consultants, the ignoring of the stakeholders whose input is critical to determining that the RPA proposals are safe, efficient, financially feasible or needed suggests that the study was far from conclusive.
This report makes recommendations as to the futures of Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia (no strategy for Stewart Airport), ground systems to/from these facilities and even their configurations (addition of runways and projected ATC routes). Massive capital outlays are posited with little recognition that some of the dollars to be spent need to come from FAA grants and their opinion about that likelihood is an essential element to a feasible plan.
N.B. Without AIP funds, the citizens of the states, for which this plan is designed to benefit, will contribute taxes [increased?]. There may be heavy opposition to any politician proposing to further tithe their constituents.
N.B.2 The next likely source for additional cash would be the airlines, but alas their viewpoint was not considered relevant to the RPA work.
It is fair to assume that involving any of the aviation stakeholders assured that the report did not recognize how NEPA would add significant time and dollars to the price tag/schedule.
2. RPA’s vision was myopic
An organization, which saw the need to build the colossal George Washington bridge well before the current demand for this span could be seen, has in its heritage. Its approach to the aviation system within its scope is static. It acknowledges that the three main airports incur some of the nation’s most significant delays and that one of the problem of the JFK-LGA-EWR triangle is that the airports are so proximate that their ATC architecture is constrained.
To address this limitation on the Metropolitan Area, RPA divined that the best answer is to add more runways at the three major airports. That “solution” will try to force more operations into the airspace (even without TEB) that is already near capacity. The tight triangle will continue to compel the controllers to treat the three airports as virtually one, but with more density under tighter separation permitted by NexGen. BEST ANSWER?
What have other major metropolitan areas done? Baltimore-Washington added Dulles; Dallas and Fort Worth built DFW; and Denver moved away from its city center, built a huge complex and connected the new airport with roads and now light rail.
Perhaps RPA decided that there were no greenfield options? So why not expand Stewart and link ground transportation there. SWF does not provide AT interference with LGA or EWR. One would suspect that the PANYNJ would favor that because it owns the underutilized airfield close to Northern NJ and Westchester County. At a minimum, SWF would be, arguendo, an acceptable alternative to TEB. The customers of that business airport are sophisticated travelers and elapsed time from A to B is their primary goal. A high-speed ground connection or a helicopter service would make SWF acceptable.
The limited vision of the RPA team is demonstrated by these paragraphs;
There are 67 other airports in or near the region with seven — Stewart International (the PA took over Stewart’s lease in 2007), White Plains-Westchester County, MacArthur-Islip, Tweed-New Haven, Atlantic City, Trenton-Mercer and Lehigh Valley-Allentown — having some scheduled passenger airline service. Additionally, Teterboro Airport, the region’s business jetport operates in the same airspace as the three major commercial airports and Teterboro serves much of the business/corporate jet and general aviation traffic for New York City.
Many of the smaller commercial airports have relatively few passengers per year compared to the major commercial airports, which each serve between 27–59 million passengers annually (Table 2). In addition, most of the smaller commercial airports have lost air service and passengers during the past six years, whereas the three major airports have experienced record traffic. The region’s smaller airports have little to no access for travelers arriving at the airport by any other means than driving or taxi services. However, in some cases this is improving. In 2017 Coach USA began running a new express bus service between Stewart International and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a trip that takes approximately 80 minutes.
After developed forecasts with major increases predicted, the self-serving sophistry of dismissing these seven alternative airports is disingenuous. A planner should see these underutilized aviation assets as infrastructure for future demand. Southwest has turned what was considered secondary airports into thriving terminals—Midway was once an empty building; Love and Hobby were expected to be starved by DFW and IAH. Instead both airfields have grown; Hobby is now a major Latin and South America embarkation point. If LGA, JFK and EWR have capacity less than demand, HPN and ISP would likely grow.
The investment plan for a vision of the Future of Region’s Airports could put capital into these facilities, probable with less outlay and shorter timelines than pouring massive amounts of money into the Big Three. The Metropolitan Area has been treated by national policy makers as a single market. Long Island has demographics would be very attractive to the airlines if LGA/EWR/JFK is oversold. A knowledgeable policy, say maybe developed with the airlines, might have increased the utilization of the seven or even 67 airports ignored by RPA.
3. Closure of Teterboro because of the 2050 Rising Sea Levels
Here is the RPA explanation of the ostensible need for removing TEB as an aviation asset:
It could be difficult to justify significant investments in elevating or walling off the 827 acre airport and its connecting roadways. Protecting the airport alone would only worsen conditions in surrounding communities by displacing flood waters. Closing TEB results in some efficiency improvements to the airspace due to its proximity to EWR and LGA. TEB serves as a pivot point, at times connecting the airspace west of the Hudson to the east of the Hudson. Its decommissioning would further decouple the region’s largest commercial airports — EWR and JFK. Additionally, TEB’s proximity to EWR creates an airspace problem (due to the different runway orientations at the two airports) that would be corrected if it was decommissioned. Its closing would free up airspace around EWR, which would improve the reliability, flexibility in operating that airport. The closure of the airport would also mean that reduction of noise that inflicts the dense communities that surround it, such as Lodi and Rutherford.
Perhaps hydrologists have an explanation, but it seems that “dike-ing” TEB is not the first problem to be rectified. The RPA map suggests that the sources of the rising water will inundate substantial residential and industrial areas BEFORE reaching the airport. If government plans to protect these houses and factories, it would seem that whatever system of dikes/walls/elevation will save communities and by doing so keep TEB will be dry. The waters would not reach the runways if the land with people living and working there are dry. TEB would be a collateral beneficiary unless the state/cities allow these buildings to be immersed in a flood plain?
In contrast (planning myopia again) the water protection for the BIG THREE will require discrete work for them with no collateral benefit to businesses and residences. For example, any walling of each of them will assure that its runways will not be flooded, but the dollars spent will only benefit the airport.
4. Closing Recommendation
RPA should be commended for assessing the needs and capabilities of the Metropolitan area; its vision of the future was distorted by the lack of aviation input. A second iteration would be advisable and maybe these will help improve the focus.
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