Runway expansion under fire

Worthington, OSU dispute data on Don Scott Field

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Dean Narciso
Reprinted by Permission

Worthington consultants have criticized an analysis of the expansion plans for Don Scott Field, calling the data incomplete, noise-monitoring devices faulty and OSU officials unwilling to fully explain why expansion is needed.

"I wasn't convinced that they'd done a complete, thorough analysis based on objective data," said Dennis Hughes, a California aviation consultant representing the city of Worthington. "It was very obvious that they were getting by on the cheap."

The charges were disputed yesterday by Ohio State University, which runs the airport, and its consultant, DLZ Corp., which conducts airport studies around the country.

"I can say, unequivocally, the budget that's been given for this project is adequate to fund a rigorous noise analysis that meets FAA requirements," said Wes Butch, DLZ project manager.

OSU is paying DLZ and subcontractor Wyle Labs $300,000, said Elizabeth Conlisk, assistant vice president for media relations at OSU.

Similar airport-contract work can range from about $70,000 to $500,000, depending on the complexity and project size, she said.

"I do believe that we are working hard to conduct a comprehensive study of the situation and are working through a process required by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). We're not making this up as we go along."

In a letter sent this week to DLZ and the Worthington City Council, Michelle Kranz, an attorney representing Worthington, called reports that some of the 11 noise-measuring devices malfunctioned "very disturbing."

Three sensors, each within 2 miles of the airport, provided incomplete data, Butch said.

But he dismissed the relevance of the errors, caused by faulty equipment or adverse weather conditions, and said the data would not be used in projections.

"We're not talking about major malfunctions that drastically change the results," Butch said.

The noise readings showed that average airport noise was below 65 decibels, the level considered unacceptable by federal standards.

The noise samples were collected during a week in February, a period deemed too short by Worthington's consultants, and a citizens group opposing the runway expansion.

"It's similar to taking raingauge precipitation for five days and then determining whether you live in a desert or rain forest," said Cheryl Chandler, an electrical engineer and Worthington resident.

Worthington's attorney, David Zoll, agreed. "That little bit of noise testing they did is clearly insufficient to determine whether or not there are significant noise impacts," he said.

Butch said the noise readings were to be used primarily to calibrate data that will help determine the potential impact of a runway expansion.

Hughes also has chided OSU for being reluctant to state its motivation for airport expansion.

FAA officials say OSU is not required to submit a formal statement of "purpose and need" until later in the application process to qualify for federal grant money.

"In a normal business venture, how do you base a project without having a purpose and need? Usually, that's the driver of the project," Hughes said. "That point hasn't been adequately addressed."

Butch said the airport has been clear that expanding its north runway and adding 50 hangars is needed to allow its Gulfstream jets to carry more fuel, conduct longer nonstop flights and to expand services to its corporate clients.


This article is also available at the dispatch.com.

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