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Runway Expansion Still Up in the Air
Dispatch, June 11, 2005

RUNWAY EXPANSION STILL UP IN THE AIR


By Dean Narciso

After planning for years to expand Don Scott Field, Ohio State University might be putting the brakes on building a longer runway.

The possibility of OSU expanding the airport without extending the runway is very real, officials said.

"Various scenarios are being considered that could differ from the full-build," said William Baeslack, dean of the College of Engineering.

Plans have included a new terminal, more hangars and research buildings. But most of the criticism has focused on the proposed north runway extension. Foes say airport noise awakens sleepers and rattles backyard parties, and that the extension will increase that noise. Property values would drop, residents and Worthington city officials say.

Doubling the length of the runway would attract new airport customers and allow planes to carry more fuel and fly greater distances, OSU said. The expansion actually would reduce noise and make takeoffs and landings safer, OSU said.

Baeslack will meet next week with Daniel M. Slane, chairman of OSU's Facilities Planning Committee. Later, Baeslack will make a recommendation to the committee, which then will report to the university's board of trustees.

The trustees have the final say on the expansion, pending approval of OSU's environmental assessment by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Slane said he would be surprised if OSU backs off the runway plans.

"I think the feeling is that we have to be sure the noise study is positive," Slane said. "If the premise is correct, to reduce noise and make it safer, why would you not do it?"

Even if a longer runway isn't in the plans, it's small consolation to critics.

"In our own discussions, we've always identified hangars as an equal problem as the runway," said Dennis Hennen, president of We Oppose the OSU (airport) Expansion. "I think we have failed in making that as clear as we should to the public."

OSU's master plan for the airport states that additional hangars to the south end of the airport would allow 50 additional aircraft to be based there, boosting takeoffs and landings by 20 percent, Hennen said.

More hangars are "just as objectable as the runway expansion alone,'' he said.

Hennen said he fears "that they'll split it up, build the hangars now and come back later for the runway."

But segmenting the project might jeopardize FAA approval, wrote OSU's airport consultant, Wes Butch, in a February memo to Douglas Hammon, the airport's director.

The FAA "may not allow the hangar project to move forward as an independent project until the other stuff is resolved," said Butch, project manager for DLZ, the consultant OSU hired to study the expansion.

Typically, when terminal improvements or hangars are being considered, an environmental assessment is all that's needed, said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro.

But when a runway is proposed, the FAA "almost always" requires an environmental-impact study, a more-rigorous analysis.

"The best route is what benefits the airport, the traveling public and the public," Molinaro said.

dnarciso@dispatch.com

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