National Public Radio (NPR) Addresses OSU Airport Expansion
Posted Thu May 20, 2004 3:29 pm EDT
Transcription of radio broadcast
National Public Radio (NPR) Story by WOSU's Dorcas Taylor
Kimberly Nixon-Bell doesn't need an alarm clock to wake up some mornings. She hears this: (sound
of a roaring jet plane)
I have mornings, where the jets begin to leave--at about 6:30 in the morning--and they
continue--every six minutes, taking off, until 8:00 in the morning. You know what? My family and I
don't get a chance to sleep in. We don't have that luxury.
Nixon-Bell lives about a mile from the airfield, and is president of the Rau Lane Civic
Association. She opposes the runway expansion at Don Scott airport. Nixon-Bell argues the airport
is only expanding the runway to accomodate the increased number of corporate jets that currently use
the airport. The jets taxi in, but are unable to refuel because the runways are too short, and for
Nixon-Bell, that only means more noise. She wants the university to hold public meetings about the
...that it's a slam-dunk, that we're not heard, that the decision's been made, that we're going
through a dance, and you know what?--until OSU will start to talk to us, it kind of looks that way.
When I talk to the FAA, and, I can't get the answers I want, everybody says, "Talk to the
airport director." Everything seems to go back to one source--that worries me.
Nixon-Bell wants a public forum with airport director Doug Hammon. Last month, Hammon was invited
to meet with area residents about their concerns. Initially, Hammon was scheduled to speak, but
declined the invitation a few days before the meeting. Nixon-Bell fears by the time residents do
get to voice their concerns, a decision will already be made. Not so, says Ohio State spokeswoman
The reason why nobody from the university was there is 'cause really, in fact, the university had
not taken a position on whether or not the lengthening of this runway should go forward, because we
don't have all the information. We need to make an informed decision, before we move further, and
we felt it would really be premature for us to start arguing the merits and getting into detail of
what may or may not happen, because, at this point, we really don't know.
WOSU scheduled an interview with Doug Hammon for this story, but university officials instead made
themselves available. Conlisk says there will be a federally-required workshop, in late summer,
after an environmental study of the airport and the surrounding area is complete. She said that
will happen before the issue goes before the university Board of Trustees, who have the final say on
the expansion. Public workshops are a presentation of all the data gathered by researchers. Public
comments are usually not heard or debated at workshops. Conlisk insists the runway expansion, or
lengthening, as she prefers to call it, is not about economic gains for the university.
Lengthening the runway would enable the size of the aircraft that currently use it to lift up more
quickly, which would reduce the noise level, which is something I know that residents are concerned
about, and it will also mean safer take-offs and landings.
Conlisk acknowledges that there is increased traffic in and out of Don Scott airport. Much of it
began following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Corporations began using private jets for
their employees, instead of commercial flights. Tony Pello is president of "We Oppose Ohio
State Expansion," also known as WOOSE. Pello says WOOSE wants Don Scott to remain at its
current operating levels.
These communities are too mature; there's too much building that's gone on; there's too much
residential density; that it just isn't feasible to do what they want to do here at this time. The
window of opportunity for that growth of the airport closed. The growth that they have scheduled
for the airport, closed years ago.
None of the residents opposed to the runway expansion are opposed to the airport, but Worthington
resident Dennis Hennen says that expanding the runway will likely exacerbate current issues with
plane noise. Hennen is also a member of WOOSE, the organization opposed to the expansion of the
north runway. He says, there is little room for compromise. Hennen fears compromise now could mean
those promises are broken later.
A no-build scenario is our preference. You know, we're not opposed to the airport as it is now,
you know maybe if they could mitigate the noise now, we would appreciate the airport's not going
away. We understand that. So, leaving it as it is now, is our preference.
WOOSE is circulating a petition among residents of northwest Columbus. They have nearly one
thousand signatures. The City of Worthington created a noise complaint phoneline early this year.
So far, nearly 4000 complaints have been registered.
Dorcas Taylor, WOSU News
"Complex" is how attorney David Zoll describes the research and data and
information-gathering process. Zoll is the Toledo lawyer hired by Worthington City Council to
evaluate what affect an expanded north runway could have on the surrounding community. Zoll will
eventually make a recommendation about the project to the council. Currently, the university and
the Federal Aviation Administration are compiling data for an environmental assessment. The
assessment uses current conditions, including noise and other variables to determine the worth of
the project. Zoll says there are three possible outcomes:
a recommendation to support the project, but only with certain mediation, or to oppose the
There's also a possibility that more study would be needed.
Another option: we would say that further environmental impact studies would need to be performed
before the impacts of the project would be determined.
In Worthington and other northwest communities, residents are trying to figure out where they fit
in to the possible runway expansion. Worthington residents are passionate about their city. John
and Steffanie Haueisen serve as tour guides for the area.
At the bottom of the road, South Street, here is a log cabin, and it has kind of a funny history
The Haueisens are also longtime Worthington residents who live just south of Route 161 in the path
of Don Scott's south runway.
The couple says they like to sit outside and watch the ducks and the three blue herons that fish
just off the river's bend. But John Haueisen says doing that in peace and quiet isn't as easy as it
used to be.
Some days, there's actually more than one jet each minute, especially like around Muirfield,
'cause you can hear one big jet after another.
(sound of small propellor plane)
Those, we don't even care about--that's quiet! That's a nice little quiet plane. (laughs) But
you know when the jets are coming over, because they really rattle the roofs.
Increased noise is the chief complaint of many residents, and David Zoll says a vital part of the
environmentl study is nighttime noise exposure.
The noise that is generated at night is more invasive than daytime noise. It interrupts people's
lives more. So, each flight is weighed much more heavily, if it's a nighttime flight. So, that
nighttime data is really important. It's very important that it be accurate and complete.
Aviation and environmental consultant Dennis Hughes says most environmental studies like the one
being conducted by OSU, normally take several years. But Hughes says the university is updating
data it has compiled over several years of study of the airport. Hughes' California firm was also
hired by Worthington City Council to look over the data collected by the university and the FAA.
Hughes says the noise study has been completed. This portion of the research creates maps that show
where noise levels are loudest. But Hughes adds there are several more unfinished research areas.
The historic sites, naturally any ground water, air quality, water quality, traffic, in other
words, the airport is also part of their master plan wants to basically improve or widen the major
thoroughfares around the airport, which has, naturally, some influence on the surrounding
The university plans to hold public workshops that residents can attend later this summer.
Attorney David Zoll believes the university intends to wait before making any decisions.
They have at least told me--I believe them--that they have not made a decision as to whether or
not they're going to go forward with this project, that they too, are waiting on the results of this
environmental assessment. They told me that The Ohio State University is not going to jump to a
quick decision on this, that they're going to be deliberate as well.
Consultant Dennis Hughes adds, OSU has willingly provided all of the information and data it's
gathered thus far to his organization. In contrast, he says, often corporations have to be coerced
into sharing data. Hughes says what may appear to be inactivity is just the opposite. Collecting
data, he says, takes time.
OSU set out on a very aggressive schedule, which--I'm not sure how they established it--but it was
not really realistic, and that's why there's been a lull or what people think has been some
foot-dragging or whatever, but data cannot be collected within a week or two. It takes a while.
Attorney David Zoll says the most recently scheduled meeting between the university, the city's
representatives, and the environmental investigators was delayed. The FAA requested additional data
on night flights, which is collected at Port Columbus. Zoll says the environmental study could end
as early as June, or continue for several years. OSU spokeswoman, Elizabeth Conlisk says the
university expects the study to be finished by late summer.
Dorcas Taylor, WOSU News
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