Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Anchorage North-South Runway Almost Done. Quiet Starts Oct 1, Maybe

My daughter sent me a picture of the Anchorage airport North-South runway that she took as her plane was leaving two weeks ago.  There it is out past the wing to the north.  I was told a couple of weeks ago that it needed grooving, painting, electrical work, and FAA approval.  Looks like - and admittedly the picture doesn't show all the runway that clearly - most of the work is done.

Checking the project website today, there's nothing new since the August 16, 2019 update.  There really never were very many updates.  The FAQ link still goes to "Not Found" within weeks (I hope) of the two year project.

The Update Video is still the same pre-project video.  The August 16 update was hidden in the Project Documents tab.  I say 'hidden' because the project page had two other links with the word "updates" which didn't give updates.

I talked to Jason Lamoreaux again.  It's still on schedule for October 1 reopening of the North-South Runway.
FAA is due to do inspections Sept 23, 2019.

But I'm still doubtful that the airport did this as fast as it could.  We had the driest summer on record.  What if there had been lots of weather problems?  Lamoreaux assured me that the only weather dependent work was the striping at the end, and that airport employees have to live through the noise as well.  He said they were working 24/7, though the only time I went out to look at the runway, there didn't seem to be much happening.  A few guys working near the fence.

Summary  (since this is getting long)
1.  I accept the need for renewing the runway.
2.  I doubt there was any real concern of the impacts on the people of Anchorage - only to the extent they might complain and interfere.  We've been watching the Netflix series Unbelievable in which the first set of cops interviewing a rape victim are two men who just don't take her seriously.  I'm sure they believe rape is terrible, but the victim wasn't someone they were sympathetic to.  The next set of women detectives were totally different in their empathy to the rape victims they met with.   I feel like the airport's interest has been like the first male detectives.  They wanted to get the job done and how the noise affected the people of Anchorage wasn't a high priority.
3.  Their noise maps that show 65 decibel noise levels end at the airport boundaries are a joke.  The levels are way above 65 decibels over our house often.
4.  I can find no concern - other than compliance with regs - about health or pollution in their reports
5.  Even with a perfect summer for construction, I see no evidence that they are trying to open the north-south runway ahead of schedule so planes can stop taking off over residences non-stop.
6.  Because there are so many other political distractions nationally and in Alaska, people were out of energy to protest something that at least had an end point.  And few were opposed to the idea of renewing the runway.
7.  Nothing will change this time, but they're going to want to do this again in the future and perhaps this documentation (along with last year's) can be helpful in preparation.

I went through the issues last year - the noise, the clearly bogus decibel maps, and how the people of Anchorage were not a high priority in this project.  The concern was for the collective income the city will get from the jobs and all the planes this runway will be able to handle in the future.  But issues like the effects of having 80 - 120 decibel planes flying over your house regularly for four months one summer and six months the next, nah, people just have to live with that.

My complaint isn't that they're 'renewing' the runway and making it wider.  I understand that will have impacts on those of us who normally enjoy the fact that the airport is a short ride away.  My concern is the project managers' apparent lack of concern for the public, shown by the lack of updates on their website AND their apparent lack of interest in getting the project done as quickly as possible.  We have had a summer of warm, rainless days.  Conditions couldn't have been better. But apparently we're going to have to have those planes rumbling overhead until the originally scheduled deadline.  Maybe Lamoreaux is right.  He sounds like a nice enough guy on the phone, but the website had very little information other than what they were required to put up.  Normally DOT has much more information with time lines and milestones for road building projects.  We had nothing like that for this project.  And the updates, for the most part, didn't exist.

And the noise is more than an annoyance if you live right on the flight path - which covers a large swath from mid-town to South Anchorage.  These decibel levels can have long time effects on people's hearing, on their blood pressure, and on their sleep which leads to other problems.  None of that shows up in their environmental impacts.  Nor do the fumes of all these planes falling on Anchorage.  Most of the EIS addresses problems from the actual construction and not the change in flight patterns that has had ALL planes in what the airport touts as one of the busiest airports in the world, flying over much of the city.

"Mitigation and Environmental Commitments
The environmental commitments below would be implemented to minimize impacts during and after constructing the proposed project. The terms, conditions, and stipulations of all environmental permits and clearances would also be met. All commitments will be part of the construction contract specifications.
Air Quality
Measures to control fugitive dust, such as pre-watering sites prior to excavation, covering or stabilizing material stockpiles, covering truckloads, removing particulate matter from wheels prior to leaving the construction site, and removing particulate matter deposited on public roads, would be implemented during construction. No vehicles, trucks, or heavy equipment would be allowed to idle unnecessarily. All motorized construction equipment would be routinely maintained and serviced.
DOT&PF has, in extensive coordination and research with ANC operations, air traffic control and the air carriers researched all possible mitigation measures to reduce temporary increased noise from aircraft departing to the east when RW 15/33 is shut down for approximately six months for construction during construction season one and possibly construction season two. The only feasible option resulting from coordination and research to mitigate this increased aircraft noise (as predicted by noise modeling) is DOT&PF would issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). The NOTAM would request air carriers to follow noise abatement procedures to reduce noise impacts over the noise sensitive areas east of the Airport which would experience a significant increase in noise during the RW 15/33 construction shut down. Air carriers can choose to adopt or not adopt the NOTAM recommendations. The public would be notified in advance of construction activities via the project email list and project web site. The public would have access to the project web site and ANC contact information for construction updates and inquiries."
There is reference to a 1978 study that talks about health effects over 65 decibels:

"FAA’s and FICON’s findings support Schultz’s widely-accepted 1978 research.13 That research indicated the level of transportation noise to which a community is exposed is directly related to the community’s health, welfare, and annoyance. Schultz’s work, and FICON’s reassessment of that work, showed cumulative noise levels above DNL 65 decibels (dB) cause community annoyance levels that make noise sensitive land uses (i.e., residences, schools, churches, hospitals and certain businesses) incompatible with airport operations.
According to FAA Order 1051.1F Desk Reference, Chapter 11, for aviation noise analyses, the FAA has determined the cumulative noise energy exposure of individuals to noise resulting from aviation activities must be established in terms of yearly DNL, the FAA’s primary noise metric."
Their map shows that the DNL of 65 ends at the edge of the airport, but that's totally bogus.  I went through all this in one of last year's posts.  They mention noise, but they don't mention the kinds of things high decibel noise does to people.

Again, maybe they did it in lightening speed.  But I only have their very undetailed assurances of that.

This is here then, so that people can start getting prepared and know what questions to ask before   the North-South Runway needs to be renewed again, in I'm not sure how many more years. (Lamoreaux didn't know.  He told me to call the airport.  I told him I did and they transferred me to him.)

Next time we want to see:

1.  Detailed plans with milestones and dates for when each milestone is met and who's responsible.
2.  More realistic measures of decibel levels where the planes are taking off over the city.
3.  Plans to measure the decibel level in various locations well beyond the airport boundaries
4.  More options for reducing the number of planes and the duration of planes flying over the city.
5.  Plans in the scheduling for speeding things up (reducing the time planes fly over the city) if things go well.

That's just a starting list.  Noise matters to people's health and well being.  Reducing what residents of Anchorage are exposed to should be a high priority next time.


  1. Reading your post, you would thing that planes fly over non stop at 80 to 120db all day. 120db (120db is the noise of a rock concert [or a jackhammer] and you know very well those planes are not that loud and they are not flying over your house nonstop). First, I have nothing to do with the airport, I have not flown out of here for about four years. In a 24-hour day you might have a few planes that make a little noise, but that’s about 15 or 20 minutes out of a 24-hour day and this summer they are much quieter than last summer. I do volunteer work near the corner of Arctic and International and they are only a couple of thousand over head and they are not that loud.
    I don’t know why you feel the need to demonize the people from the airport, you question the director’s qualifications, the numbers they provide people as to the economic benefits they provide to the city and the ability of the people managing the upgrade to do the job right. Yes, out of 300 or so construction days you look through the fence for about 20 minutes and figure that they are goofing off or have no idea of how to do their job. Here something to think of, if they get done X number of days early that’s X number of dollars the workers will not receive in wages. Your suggestion for reducing the number of planes? Are you going to tell Alaska Airlines or the cargo companies to cut back on flights? How is that going to affect the people who work for them. They just go on unemployment for the summer? Going to put a quota on the number of people who can visit Alaska? Wouldn’t be ironic if one of the planes you wanted to fly out on was ‘reduced’.
    I would like to see some documentation from you (measured data) of all the effects this upgrade has had on people. No one is protesting because its not that big of a deal. Only thing you missed was the Chemtrail theory. 99.999999999% of the people are doing just fine, a small minority stand in there back yards and take pictures of planes that have the nerve to fly over their house. When is the last time you saw a letter to the editor about the airport?
    One more time Steve, measured data to back up your health claims.
    (The Daily News had an article today only 13 comments about 6 against)


  2. Oliver, Thanks for writing.
    1. We all are sensitive to some things and not others. I find the noise bothersome. You find my posts about that bothersome. For you, not reading the blog would solve your irritation. I can't turn off the airplanes.
    2. You write: "you would thing that planes fly over non stop at 80 to 120db all day. 120db (120db is the noise of a rock concert [or a jackhammer] and you know very well those planes are not that loud"
    I put 120 at the high end and there are planes as loud as a rock concert now and then. But there are plenty at 80 decibels or more. And the airport's map says the limit is 65 decibels at the edge of the airport. Those are the standards that have been set nationally. Because the noise does affect people's health. I didn't come up with those standards.

    3. You write: "In a 24-hour day you might have a few planes that make a little noise, but that’s about 15 or 20 minutes out of a 24-hour day"
    You're wrong. I've counted 6 and 7 planes an hour at times. It's not non-stop. There were times when there didn't seem to be many at all. Other times 5 went over our house in two hours or less during the night and woke me up.

    4. I'm pretty careful to back up what I say with facts. You say I demonize the airport people. I don't think pointing out that their website 'updates' video was NEVER updated in two years and that their other updates are few and far between. Or discussing someone's work experience is demonizing. His resume was there for anyone to look at. (And that was last year anyway.)
    5. Health impacts accrue over time. Last year I cited studies of European airports and noise levels and health impacts. Surely you aren't asking me to spend $100K to gather the data here. But I am pointing out that none of that data was collected by the airport. They didn't even do decibel testing of the original predicted decibel levels. I suspect because they knew the noise was much higher than the predicted. Besides, health impacts happen over time. Individuals don't even know they are happening until later - like head injuries for football players. Those who complained were wusses. People near toxic waste dumps were given the runaround for decades. Cigaret smokers were told there were no health risks, and even when there was evidence, many were too addicted to quit. And there were always the few George Burns around to 'prove' smoking wasn't harmful. And the coal miners are angry their mines are shut down, even though they cough all night. So just because people don't complain, doesn't mean they aren't affected. I pointed to studies that showed there were problems last year. You haven't pointed to any studies that say noise on a regular basis over 65 decibels is harmless.

    Oh, and are you really saying we should keep the runway closed an extra two weeks so that workers can get paid more? And should we do that with summer road construction and sewer and gasoline work? Let's block the Seward Highway all summer so workers can get paid more? Really? They should get fair wages and benefits. But if you want to make sure they get a summer's worth of wages, then give them a bonus for finishing the job early. Don't make everyone else suffer with road closures and loud planes overhead longer than necessary.


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