Tinicum Township vows to fight airport growth

Posted: January 05, 2011

MAYOR NUTTER and Philadelphia International Airport officials may be excited about the Federal Aviation Administration's approval yesterday of a $5.2 billion airport-expansion plan, but neighbors in Tinicum Township aren't ready to stop fighting.

After 10 years of debate, the FAA yesterday approved a plan to lengthen two runways and build a fifth runway by 2025 along the Delaware River on land now occupied by the United Parcel Service.

UPS would have to agree to move to land in Tinicum Township, which would lead to the demolition of 72 homes and 12 businesses in the Delaware County town. Scores of other businesses north of the airport in Philadelphia would also have to be relocated.But Tinicum Township officials said yesterday that they are likely to continue to fight the expansion in court.

"We're looking into challenging the decision," said Thomas Giancristoforo Jr., president of Tinicum's Board of Commissioners.

"There is no love lost for this project," said Barbara Lichman, a California attorney who specializes in environmental issues and is representing Tinicum. "I don't think Tinicum Township is out there alone.

"A number of environmental agencies are less than thrilled with the conclusions and analyses" in the FAA's record of decision, she said of the document released yesterday on the agency's website to announce the plan's approval.

The plan calls for the loss of 81.7 acres of wetlands and would also require 24.5 acres of fill to be placed in the Delaware River to build the new runway.

Airport CEO Mark Gale said the expansion is desperately needed. In 2009, the airport ranked fourth in the nation for most delays.

"You get a reputation of either being a place where it's hard to get out of or you're sitting in another airport waiting to come into Philadelphia," Gale said.

The majority of delays occur in Philadelphia during poor weather because the runways are too close to one another to allow two planes to land or take off simultaneously.

He said that some airports have the option of running triple operations but that "we don't have the ability to run dual operations."

"That's a serious generator of delays," Gale said.

Delays would be cut from an average of 10 minutes now to 5.2 minutes in 2025, Gale said.

But David McCann, president of Tinicum Township's Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco, said the expansion won't solve the congestion problems because Philadelphia's airspace is situated in the heavy traveled area between New York and Washington.

McCann said his group isn't opposed to the airport plan in general - the residents simply want to have their issues heard.

He said FAA officials "have been condescending and arrogant" in public meetings on the plan. He called the FAA's approval, "just another example of a long pattern of the FAA mistreatment of Tinicum Township."

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