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Sat, May 05, 2007

FAA Approves New 9,300-foot Taxiway For Logan Int'l

Boston's Mayor Not Pleased

The FAA issued its final approval Thursday for a controversial 9,300-foot taxiway to be constructed at Logan International Airport, for a project designed to reduce collision potential, minimize travel delays, and diminish ground noise.

The taxiway, expected to cost around $55 million, will require about two years worth of construction. It was one of the major safety recommendations after an eruption of near-collisions and other incidents at BOS in 2004 and 2005.

During that period, BOS had the most such incidents of any other airport in the nation. The closest close-call occurred on June 9, 2005, when two jets carrying a 448 passengers and crew came within 106 vertical feet of each other after being allowed to take off on intersecting runways.

As reported by ANN, the centerfield taxiway is considered an important element in making Logan a safer airport. It would reduce the chance of conflicts between taxiing aircraft and aircraft operating on the runway. Proponents also say a centerfield taxiway would allow aircraft to taxi to the runway or to the gate more efficiently.

The proposed centerfield taxiway is included in the list of airfield actions to improve Boston Logan's efficiency and was studied extensively in the Boston-Logan Airside Improvements Planning EIS/EIR (1995 to 2002).

Even though the new taxiway will allow aircraft to cross runways at more locations, having several planes cross runways at the same time will be safer than conducting the crossings at the same location, which takes more time, aviation officials told the Boston Globe.

The current runway layout forces aircraft waiting to take off on 22R or 22L to wait, single file, on the taxiway along the airport's northwest side. The center-field taxiway will allow larger or late aircraft to bypass the line and go directly to 22L.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino isn't so enthusiastic about the agency's approval. He contends the public did not get sufficient opportunity to voice their opinions, although the original public comment period was extended by the FAA, and local communities will suffer.

"I continue to be extremely frustrated and adamantly opposed to the construction of a center-field taxiway," said a statement from the mayor. "The FAA should immediately stop the process and allow public health agencies to look at responses to the potential health issues raised during this process."

East Boston and Winthrop opponents managed to delay the approval last year with complaints of increased noise by idling planes that the new taxiway would bring closer to their neighborhoods. But now, it appears a lawsuit is their last alternative to stop the project.

"We're trying to do whatever we can do, but it seems to be a difficult process," said Ronald H. Hardaway, an East Boston resident who has served on the airport's Citizens Advisory Committee. "Property values are going to go down, and a lot of good people are probably going to leave because of this... We can appreciate a good airport ... but stuffing that new taxiway in there is just too much."

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates BOS, has plans to conduct an air quality study that will analyze air quality before and after the taxiway is completed at a cost of $1.5 million.

An NTSB report issued April 12 regarding a June 2005 near-collision that said a controller" forgot" permission had been given to an aircraft for take off and then allowed another plane on an intersecting runway to take off.

The FAA categorized the incident as one of the most serious near-collisions on record, where "separation decreases to the point that participants take extreme action to narrowly avoid a collision, or the event results in a collision."

According to the report, the controller "stated he was very busy coordinating with airplanes and other controllers at the time of the incident." Logan tower procedures have reportedly been change to avoid similar situations.

Eighty percent of the total cost of the new taxiway is expected from the government, with Massport paying 20 percent.

BOS officials estimate ground delays will be decreased by 10,000 hours a year, or as much as 22 percent. Logan currently ranks as the nation's 17th busiest airport with about 1,250 daily departures.

FMI: www.massport.com/logan/default.aspx, www.faa.gov

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