The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) announced today that it has opened a "Citizens’ log" on its website for residents and travelers encountering unusual annoyances or travel delays during the shutdown of the North Parallel Runway for reconstruction Aug. 17-Oct. 31, 2009. The on-line address is http://quiettheskies.org.
SMAAC, the citizen-based group monitoring issues at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has been leafleting summer neighborhood events and MAC public hearings about the runway closure. SMAAC wants reports about loud overflights, both time-of-day and direction, as a check on the announced plan, and passenger anecdotes about MSP or airline problems under delay conditions.
According to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), weather caused unanticipated difficulties for airlines, airport, and FAA staffs during a similar shutdown of the South Parallel Runway in 2007. Since Delta/Northwest apparently hasn’t much reduced its hub operations, less safe capacity combined with reduced visibility conditions creates airport congestion which likely will slow hourly operations drastically.
"The North parallel runway project shifts the 1,200 daily flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to the three other runways for the duration," said Jim Spensley, SMAAC president. "This will expose thousands of residents, businesses and travelers to additional health, environmental and safety risks.
Spensley also said that rerouting decisions were made without any meaningful opportunity for affected citizens to propose alternatives in advance, in spite of repeated attempts to do so. As in 2007, using either the new runway or the cross-wind runway instead of a main runway limits safe capacity under calm, good visibility conditions (visual flight rules) because of crossing runways and intersecting runway headings. With higher winds or less visibility, MSP’s safe hourly rates for arrivals and departures are very much reduced.
Airport staff estimated that delays during the project will be two to four times normal for this time of year.
SMAAC notes, however, that less use of the new runway (R17-35) over Minneapolis, compared to the similar 2007 project, is planned this time. South Minneapolis residents and schools complained bitterly during the Fall 2007 project, and SMAAC appealed to Congress for more Federal review.
Under the Federal Aviation Administration’s temporary air traffic control plan, the usual southerly departures and northerly approaches using the new runway over Bloomington, Eagan and Apple Valley will be continued, slightly increased. The plan is to alternate two departures or arrivals each on the South parallel runway (R12R-30L) and the new runway (R17-35) with one operation on the cross-wind runway (R4-22), wind and weather permitting. If this plan is implemented, 240 operations per day would be using the cross-wind runway over Bloomington, Richfield, and Burnsville to the Southwest of the airport, or Minneapolis and St. Paul to the Northeast of the airport.
August (2009) delays are already up compared to 2008, and during the first week of the 2009 project, more delays than predicted by the MAC were recorded.
The MAC’s two roles in planning the temporary operations are key delay elements: scheduling the $17 million runway repair project (when and how long) and opening and closing the adjacent runway (R4-22).