But Court Decision Stops Effort To Control Congestion
Florida's Broward County has not
had a good week. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the county's main
airport, must expand immediately to handle increasing demand. But
last Friday, a federal court order was issued that threatened to
eliminate the main strategy for dealing with that very issue.
FLL is one of several US airports where the FAA has said
expansion was critical. Also on the list: New York's LaGuardia
Airport, Newark Liberty International and Chicago O'Hare
Although there has been some decline in numbers since Hurricane
Wilma in 2005, FLL has been one of the nation's fastest-growing
airports, a double-edged sword.
In May 2005, the airport, already known for its delays, was put
on a federal list of six potential "trouble spots" for vacation
travelers. So, the FAA insisted it had all the necessary authority
to mandate "all available runways" be used to reduce traffic
backups in an effort quell the resultant nationwide domino-effect
of delays, according to the Miami Herald.
But, that flew in the face of a 1995 agreement that the north
runway would get the bulk of traffic. The mandate angered not only
residents near the airport, but nearby cities as well. Two
residents and the cities of Hollywood and Dania Beach filed a
lawsuit, complaining that allowing increased traffic on the
southern and crosswind runways made living near the airport
Marco Salvino Sr., a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the
increased traffic "sounds like a missile," and jet exhaust leaves a
"sheen" of "black residue" on his car and swimming pool.
The US Court of Appeals in Washington sided with the plaintiffs
last week, saying the FAA's 2005 decision was a major policy change
on runway use and such a decision could not be made without an
environmental impact study.
"The FAA can't just arbitrarily change things," said Dania Beach
Mayor Bob Anton.
As ANN has reported, there is
an environmental impact study should be out this spring. In
November 2006, planned expansion slowed because an FAA forecast
suggested airport operations weren't growing as quickly as
predicted. An environmental impact study on the expansion was
planned to be released at the end 2006, but was bumped to a spring
release so the FAA can factor in updated passenger figures to be
released in January.
According to FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, between 900 and
1,100 flights use the airport's three runways daily, with the main
north runway getting the lion's share of about 65 percent.
The crosswind runway, which cuts diagonally across the two main
runways, has seen about two to three percent of overall traffic
since 2005. That particular runway also is used for landings
whenever the northern runway is closed, Bergen said.
Last week's ruling could bring that practice to a congested
halt, however, resulting in an increase in delays just in time for
"With less traffic there, obviously the situation would be
better," said Salvino, who has lived in the nearby Melaleuca
Gardens neighborhood in Dania Beach for 54 years. "I think people
here will enjoy their homes a lot more."
County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman on Tuesday applauded the
court's recent decision. Commissioners wanted an environmental
review when the FAA informed the county it would increase use of
the other runways in 2005, she said.
"The crosswind is the most noise-sensitive of all the runways
out there," Lieberman said. "I'm glad the FAA will have to do that
kind of analysis."
But many other county commissioners and local business leaders
agree with the FAA in that Broward needs to expand the airport to
Friday's decision has no bearing on the larger issue on how or
if to expand the south runway. The process will include a separate
environment study, but that process has also been in process for
more than a decade. The earliest a longer runway would open is
But any expansion by anyone might be hard to pull off at all. As ANN has reported,
opponents of the proposed expansion rallied at a public hearing
recently. The group informed county officials they refused to be
forced from their homes by excessive noise caused by large
Anton suggests the airport could try to alleviate congestion by
rearranging the existing flight schedule thereby eliminating some
of the delays. To him, the benefits of a larger airport just don't
outweigh the inconvenience to nearby residents.
"How much is a... delay worth?" he said. The FAA has 45 days to
issue an appeal.