To read SAND's comment letter of 4/99 regarding Massport's proposed Logan Expansion Plan click here.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 8/26/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
Logan runway takes us nowhere
By James Aloisi, 8/26/2000
Recent reports disclosing that former transportation secretary Fred
Salvucci and Massport officials were exploring a compromise on the
proposed new runway at Logan Airport provoked a firm rebuke from local
activists. The compromise under consideration - that the runway would be
used only during certain weather conditions - was flatly rejected by a
leading runway opponent. And well it should have been.
The principal argument against compromise is this: The enormous,
costly, and unprecedented effort that has been made to secure federal
and local approval for the new runway has failed to build the kind of
political or civic consensus necessary to justify this significant
expansion of the region's largest airport. Runway proponents have had
ample opportunity to make their case, and they have failed. It's time
for a fundamentally different approach to solving the congestion problem
and for a moratorium on regional airport expansion.
A moratorium on regional expansion may seem extreme, but there can be
no successful long-term solution to the problem of air travel delays
without the kind of fresh, outside-the-box thinking that a moratorium
would promote. Our state and region are leaders in the new economy,
nurturing ideas that are on the cutting edge of innovation. Why, then,
are we turning to a decades-old proposal to solve the problem of air
travel delay? The idea that you can solve delays at Logan by adding
capacity on an already crowded airfield is just as misguided and
destined to failure as the decades old idea that you can solve auto
traffic congestion by increasing highway capacity. It never worked with
automobile traffic, and it won't work for air traffic.
Adding a short takeoff and landing runway across the airport's two
large parallel runways has always been the wrong answer to the problem.
This issue must be addressed with the same foresight that led to the
development of the Quabbin Reservoir, the building of the Massachusetts
Turnpike, and the construction fo the Central Artery/Tunnel Project.
The solution, in other words, must last for generations. Even
proponents of the runway admit that it is at best a short-term fix for a
fundamental supply/demand/capacity problem. Compromising on this
inadequate solution leaves the tough and necessary decision making for
another day. Why wait?
A moratorium would enable stakeholders and planners to undertake a
focused effort to discuss and resolve the issue of air travel delay in a
comprehensive manner. To her credit and unlike her recent predecessors,
Massport's executive director, Virginia Buckingham, seems genuinely
committed to seeking out regional air travel solutions, but that alone
is not enough.
The discussion that must take place should consider such issues as the
importance of improved regional rail connections (including a high-speed
inland route across Massachusetts and through Vermont), the
ramifications of the decisions to abandon the existing air facilities at
Fort Devens and South Weymouth, the costs associated with necessary
improved ground transportation, and the practicality of making Logan the
region's truly national and international facility, leaving most
regional connections to other facilities.
The discussion must consider the land use, noise pollution, and
transportation access implications of airport expansion, carefully
evaluating mobility needs throughout New England and making thoughtful
and informed choices.
Finally, if one rationale for the runway is that it is necessary to
support the business community, the discussion must explore solutions
that anticipate changes in the ways in which business is conducted.
The business office is a dynamic environment where face-to-face
meetings are increasingly rare and unnecessary. If the airline industry
made the world small in the 20th century, the power of 21st century
technology is making the need to travel to conduct
business obsolete. Few business people choose to waste precious time
running from distant airport to inner city and back again to do what can
be done by tele- and video-conferencing.
Boston's air travel delay problem is not unique. Delays have become a
national concern and are caused by a variety of factors that often have
nothing to do with wind conditions.
The most compelling argument against building the runway - even a
compromise wind-restricted runway - is that it is a fundamentally
inadequate solution that has been developed in a policy vacuum. If it is
built, we will still be searching for solutions to congestion and delay
10 years from now. The runway has become the path of least resistance.
Identifying and implementing effective long-term solutions is the more
difficult path. We can take that path now or we can avoid it and leave
the hard choices to the next generation. A moratorium now will start us
on a journey that must be taken.
James Aloisi was assistant state transportation secretary and general
counsel to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority from
1987 to 1996.
This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 8/26/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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