Tweed plan not taking off

Tweed
Photo by Yale Daily News.

Current plans to expand New Haven’s Tweed Airport will not be coming to fruition anytime soon.

State and local lawmakers are currently pushing a bill to lengthen the runway of the airportfrom 5,600 to 6,000 feet long. The expansion is considered a key platform of Mayor Toni Harp’s Economic Development Plan, essential for attracting additional airlines — US Airways Express is currently the only one at the airport. However, the bill is stuck in committee because residents are concerned about safety, especially after a plane crash near the airport in August 2013.

City Hall Communications Director Laurence Grotheer said that an expansion of airline companies at Tweed Airport has been a priority of Mayor Harp’s since her Feb. 3 State of the City Address. But he added that the issue has not progressed as quickly as she would like. Grotheer said that Harp’s administration has communicated by mail with residents in the areas ofNew Haven and East Haven adjoining Tweed New Haven Airport, in order to learn how to improve soundproofing and find out how to mitigate the impact of a future expansion. Grotheer declined to comment on how successful reaching out to area residents has been, and said that other levels of government will need to get involved in order for the project to be successful.

“This is a project that’s being addressed on the municipal, state, and federal levels,” he said. “Certainly the FAA gets involved in approving flights and airports, the state has to apporve these runway-improving components and the city is doing its part to soften the impact for area residents and to leverage funding from federal support.”

Southern Connecticut’s federal elected officials have also been front-and-center in the fight to expand Tweed. Rep. DeLauro said in an email that she is proud of her office’s previous success at winning federal grants for Tweed and that her work on Tweed’s expansion will continue.

“I have been engaged on this issue for many years and am proud of my office’s efforts to successfully win federal money to upgrade safety measures at Tweed,” she said. “I will continue to work with area residents and the cities of New Haven and East Haven to come to a solution that is agreeable to all parties.”

However, the airport’s potential expansion provokes unease in the City of East Haven, where Tweed’s proximity has been both an economic boon and a safety hazard. Most recently, on Aug. 9, 2013, a plane crashed near the airport, killing four and raising concerns about whether the airport’s safety regulations are adequate.

East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. announced in an April 10 press release that he will begin reviewing the bill to expand the runway and proceed with extreme caution.

“East Haven understands and embraces the economic importance of Tweed Airport and the Town does not intend to obstruct reasonable, mutually beneficial operation of the facility,” he said in a statement. “However, in light of the impact on area residents of paving the runway safety areas, I have asked the Town’s legal counsel to undertake an immediate review of the proposed legislation,”

State Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, conceded that the bill to reopen negotiations between New Haven and East Haven faces too many obstacles to advance during the General Assembly’s current session, which will end in under three weeks.

Lemar said he was disappointed given the economic boon Tweed could be for the region.

“I think that a Tweed expansion is good for the region and good for the city, small companies in New Haven and for the region,” he said. “Trying to be smart and grow Tweed’s air service without growing the footprint is the goal.”

Back on campus, Yalies interviewed agreed with Lemar’s assessment.

Allan Hon MUS ’15 said that, as a music student who frequently travels with equipment, it would be helpful to have more airlines because that would give him more options when flying out of Tweed and fewer transfers. Hon added that he would also use a revamped Tweed to travel to his native California.

Lemar said that supporters of S.B. 139 would have to commit for the long haul.

“It’s going to require a much longer, more public conversation before we can get to that point,” he said. “Right now, I’m sensing very little support for the Tweed bill in the legislature until we all come together — City of New Haven, City of East Haven, residents of East Haven residents of Morris Cove — and agree that this is in our best interest.”

Tweed Airport was constructed in 1931 and was named for its first-ever manager, the late John “Jack” Tweed.

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