The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) applauds the legal actions being undertaken by cities around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) over noise.
SMAAC advised the Cities to seek judicial relief in 2000, when the first steps were taken by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) away from commitments made to MSP’s neighbors and local passengers in conjunction with expanding MSP as a major hub. The deal struck with MAC and Northwest Airlines through the Legislature in 1996 included noise mitigation during and after construction of expanded “capacity” at MSP.
However, MAC staff agreed to reduce the sound insulation budget by over $200 million in “negotiations” with Northwest and other airlines for 5-year leases of gates and terminal facilities.
According to information uncovered by SMAAC, MAC wanted to 1) avoid comparison of actual noise to the 1996 projected noise exposure maps, and 2) delay noise exposure map updates until after 2001, so that projected use of new Runway 17-35 and the effects of older (Stage II) airliners could be applied to minimize the impacted areas.
SMAAC questioned the implementation of noise and other environmental protection measures in 1997, when it was noted that changes in flight frequency, more operations at peak hours, during 1996 belied the noise exposure (contour) map then in use for sound insulation eligibility. Dean Lindberg, former SMAAC President, served on the MSP Airport Sound Abatement Council (MASAC) and noted the increased use of the main runways compared to MAC’s (1994) projections. His work was supplemented by analysis of the integrated noise model, and SMAAC pointed out that both over 65 DNL noise and over 60 DNL noise areas were actually much larger in 1996 than officially mapped. Using the higher use trends experienced in 1995 to 2000, worst case MSP noise would occur in Minneapolis, North Richfield, Eagan, and Mendota Heights in 2003, would temporarily decline after opening the new runway, but noise would again exceed MAC projections (for 2020 operations) under the main runways before 2010.
According to SMAAC President Jim Spensley, attention to under-projected use of the main runways and objections to plans to add gates for more hub use by Northwest and its partners led to dissolution of MASAC and an era of secret collaboration between MAC and its tenants to reduce noise mitigation and environmental compliance program budgets.
SMAAC attempted to fill in. “However,” Spensley reported “Not once in all that time were citizen comments considered before MAC or its P&E Committee voted on the matters being addressed.”
SMAAC notes that MSP Expansion was justified based on Minnesota economic growth (need) projections for the year 2020, expressed as the passenger capacity available after connecting passenger capacity was subtracted from seat capacity (hubbing factor). After 9/11, MAC “re-set” its expansion schedule, again under-estimating flights, and noise, in 2007 (and 2010 and 2020). “Over 3,000 families in Minneapolis and Richfield experienced (more) noise since 1995 that was to have been mitigated