Building a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport would destroy some wetlands, displace hundreds of residents and lead to more airplane noise. But it’s still the best alternative for relieving congestion at the airport, an environmentalimpact study concludes.
The 2,200-page draft environmental-impact statement, released Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration, will be the subject of public hearings over the next few months. It’s the latest in a series of studies that has concluded Sea-Tac expansion and a third runway are key to the Puget Sound region’s future.
According to the FAA’s $4.2 million draft study, construction of a third runway would:
Require the purchase of up to 390 houses immediately west of the airport but would not require any home buyouts to mitigate noise.
Increase noise for at least 150 homes in the area.
Create about 37,000 construction jobs and an additional 110,000 aviation-related jobs over the next 25 years.
Require more than 17 million cubic yards of fill dirt, which could generate up to 57 truck round-trips an hour.
Require diversion of portions of Miller and Des Moines creeks.
Result in loss of about 10 acres of wetlands, which the Port of Seattle says it would replace.
Generate additional auto traffic.
FAA officials concede the new runway isn’t the perfect solution and that it only buys time - perhaps 30 years - until the region will need an entirely new airport. But between now and 2020, the agency estimates air traffic in and out of Sea-Tac will grow by 200,000 flights a year.
“With or without improvements at Sea-Tac Airport, aviation demand will increase as a consequence of regional growth,” the FAA study notes.
Foes of the third runway - mainly residents and city officials living around Sea-Tac - said the FAA study is just another whitewash.
“This EIS is an attempt to cover up a billion-dollar economic and environmental disaster, reminiscent of the WPPSS nuclear power plant fiasco,” said Bob Olander, executive director of the Airport Communities Coalition.
“Realistic alternatives exist such as higher-speed rail, peak-hour pricing, interim use of Paine Field and longer-range construction of supplemental airports,” Olander said.
Proponents said it’s time to get on with construction.
“For more than five years this project has been examined from every angle to identify any problems,” said George Walker, co-chairman of Air Washington. “The proposed expansion of Sea-Tac has passed these tests with flying colors. Now that we’ve exhaustively probed all the negatives, it’s time to take a complete look at the positives.”
Meanwhile, an independent panel of three out-of-state experts will hold three meetings in Seattle next week as it studies whether the Port is doing enough to reduce noise and increase efficiency at Sea-Tac. The experts were appointed by the state transportation secretary’s office.
The Port needs the panel’s blessing before construction can begin.
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