Rate this
RIAC moving ‘full steam ahead’ on relocating fields
Solomon wants health, traffic studies

Kelly Fredericks, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC), doesn’t see any chance of relocating the Winslow Park playing fields to anywhere but airport property in the Lakeshore Drive neighborhood.

“Our position is that we’re moving full steam ahead. We’ve gone too far to stop now,” Fredericks said in an interview Friday.

Lakeshore Drive has been the designated site for the fields, which must be moved for an extension of Green Airport’s main runway, since the fall of 2012 when the City Council signed a memorandum of understanding with RIAC. Under the agreement, the council dropped its legal challenge of the longer runway and RIAC agreed to a series of provisions, including the relocation of the softball and soccer fields.

But last week, where the fields should be relocated was raised again when Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon suggested either Rocky Point or City Park would be preferable. His reasons: Air quality and safety would be better than adjacent to the airport. Cost also appeared to be a factor, as both Solomon and Steve Merolla (D-Ward 9) raised the possibility of locating the fields elsewhere when, in a presentation to the council, Fredericks revealed the cost of the project was more than first estimated. The cost has climbed from $5.5 million to $7.5 million.

Yesterday, Solomon was adamant that until the Lakeshore site gets clearance from the Department of Health and the Department of Transportation designs safe access on Airport Road, the fields would be better situated elsewhere.

“I don’t think where we’re putting them is taking them out of harm’s way. It’s the easy way to go. It’s not the right way to go. Let’s look at the options,” he said.

Solomon also brought up the issue of the cost.

“When you’re going to spend $7 million, try to look for a better location. Based on the information presented to the City Council, they [RIAC] can still do something about it. I think that design can be placed in a number of potential other locations,” he said.

Could those funds be spent on fields elsewhere?

Fredericks isn’t sure.

“We have used federal funds for this design,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who spearheaded negotiations for the airport agreement along with former City Council President Bruce Place, said City Park and Rocky Point were looked at early on. City Park was ruled out because it lacked space and the city owned 41 acres of Rocky Point. The remaining acres of the former amusement park are owned by the state.

While she thinks Rocky Point would be a great place to have fields, Vella-Wilkinson points out the land isn’t owned by the city and it wouldn’t be the city’s decision. The CCRI Knight Campus was also in the mix as a site early on, and viewed as the preferred location, but a combination of issues with terrain and control of the fields made it unviable.

Vella-Wilkinson also questions Merolla’s argument that the airport bought the Lakeshore Drive houses because of their proximity to the airport and that children would be playing in an area of poor air quality. She points out the houses were acquired because they were in a “high noise contour” and not because of air quality. And, she observed, those noise contours are projected to constrict in the years ahead.

“I personally think it [the fields] is going to increase the value of the homes in the neighborhood,” Vella-Wilkinson said. “This is going to be gorgeous.”

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur said Solomon’s Rocky Point suggestion was a surprise to him. He questioned whether the state would develop league fields at the park.

Apponaug Girls Softball league president Robert Chevien said he was surprised that other locations are being suggested for the fields now.

“Where were these two councilmen two years ago when this thing started?” he asked.

With 90 percent of the Lakeshore Drive fields design completed, construction is slated to start in the spring. The fields are to be ready for play in 2015, so that the existing Winslow Park can make room for a relocated Main Avenue. Moving the road is required to extend the main runway to 8,700 feet. That project is projected for completion in 2017 with, as Fredericks says, the first takeoff occurring on Dec. 7, 2017.

Resolutions docketed by Solomon call for a DOT traffic study of the use of the existing maintenance service road, which intersects with Airport Road, as access and egress to the fields, and a study from the Department of Health.

“I’m requesting additional information from the state.

Maybe they’re not putting them in harm’s way. I could be wrong, but let the experts tell us. We have to do our due diligence,” he said.

As for whether he agreed to the Lakeshore Drive site when he signed the agreement with RIAC, Solomon said, “Maybe I made a mistake signing the MOU.”


Comments
19 comments on this item

Cost of this project will be closer to $15 million because RIAC will need to borrow the money to move the fields. I wonder how much moving Main Avenue will cost?

Unbelievable. The project is well on its way and still the resistance. They cleared all the red tape. There is no turning back now. Mr. Langseth where you live you're not effected by the planes. Why such an interest I wonder? Where they are moving the fields is much better than where they are now ! Planes won't fly directly over them. More people are traveling once again out of TF Green and the businesses are moving in such as on Jefferson Blvd, Apponaug. All is well. Merry Christmas

Why do people vote Mr. Solomon into the councilman position is beyond my comprehension. Leaders who make decisions than have doubts are weak leaders. In this case I can assure all the right choices were made regarding the airport expansion.

Langseth you ask great questions and offer great thoughts on these public policies. I dont necessarily agree all the time, but often do. Thank you for it all.

The Warwick City Council(the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight). All of these issues regarding relocation of the playing fields should have been addressed BEFORE the MOU was signed by the City Council.

As far as using Rocky Point property owned by the State of RI for the fields, I don't believe Warwick would have complete control over them.

As for the cost issues & the timeframe for the entire project to be completed, I expect it to cost much more than originally projected & require more time to complete; as well as requiring RIAC to fund more of the project from its own sources, which ultimately means passing on the cost to air travelers.

Markyc makes a good point. RIAC clearly will raise the rent to airlines and raise parking fees to pay for the cost overruns incurred to move the ball fields. It is the only way that they can prove to Wall Street that they are credit worthy. Raise fees to pay debt service. But the problem is that RIAC competes with MassPort for airlines and passengers. And passengers switch to Logan when the prices at Green go up for flights out of Warwick. When the prices go down then some of them come back to Green. This has been going on ever sense deregulation was put in place in the 1970s.

The RIAC board pretends that no matter what they do, the passengers will flock to Green. If I were on the board I would hunker down, keep the infrastructure (and the fees) where they are. When RIAC invites price increases to support dead-on-arrival infrastructure - then the airlines say "oh screw" let's do that too. Some day the people are going to realize that the extra hour or so to get to Logan is worth doing to save three or four hundred on a flight to visit the kids out there where there are actually jobs to find and the kids have cashed in - leaving our cities and towns crumbling around the wonderful airport.

Oh clearly.... this is pure speculation! Crystal ball stuff. Suggested by people who clearly are opposed to the airport expanding. By 2017 they will be flying all over the world from TF Green via their longer runway

Michael: Those in power have one vision - how to get reelected. So you keep hearing the same old trash because that is what those who have not mastered how to think strategically need to know before they pull their party levers.

Here's my vision for the future: great hourly service to Dulles Airport with advanced international clearance at Green for those jumping on cheap flights to Dubai from Dulles. That would cost millions less to set up than moving Main Avenue etc. And it would be a great convenience for the people of Rhode Island. Do you have any problem with that kind of innovation?

I don't like it. Don't want to fly Dulles first. Want to fly out of TF Green to Dulles. Moving Main Ave really isn't a big deal. I hope they widen it for at least that section because the road is treacherous being so narrow. Why does RI have to stay small? Lets put RI on the map. Because they way I see it the only industry we have to offer is tourism.

Michael:

Maybe you can convince Amtrak to stop at Green! Also maybe you can convince Wall Street to set up a $100 million bond issue so that 100 people per day could fly to some backwater airport in the UK. That would be cool if you can figure out the EU connections to where you actually want to go. I'd rather fly to Dulles and then take a plane to where ever I need to go rather than fly to Gatwick and take a shuttle bus to Heathrow and reenter the security system etc. One plane per day out of Green to Gatwick is nowhere near as good as six planes per day to Dulles.

Look at Vail. They seem to attract passengers without a lot of non-stops to all over the world. We are in a hub and spoke air service world. Get with the program!

Richard don't waste your time with Michael2012.

He has a lot to say on the Beacon blogs pages and can't have a respectful conversation at times, but all during the time you and I were fighting to make sure RIAC didn't destroy Warwick by expanding the airport beyond what was required and all those years you and I and the dozen of other residents attended city council budget hearing and sewer authority hearing and other meeting, I don't recall any Michael stepping up to be heard on all these issues. May be he should throw his hat in the ring as you and I have done in the past and run for office instead of criticizing everyone else who doesn't agree with him.

Bob:

Michael2012 does provide a valuable service. Without him I would not have come up with the idea that it is better to fly to a big US hub with extra capacity for feeder flights -- Dulles -- to catch an international flight rather than flying to some god awful place in the UK or Ireland and then trying to figure out how to get to your actual destination from there. You get the same number - or fewer - hops and a much better schedule by jumping on a shuttle like service to the US hub perhaps savings as much as a day in your trip to India, Eastern Europe, or the Mid East. And the added benefit is that you might actually want to go to Northern Virginia to work and bring the bacon back home to Rhode Island. So, want to help out Rhode Island businesses get their employees and customers to and from Europe? Build better shuttle service to Dulles and stop wasting hundreds of millions borrowing money to fulfill 15 year old dreams that force bad service on the flying public.

This is all quite entertaining because it really doesn't matter because nothing is going to stop the expansion at this point. So continue with your banter about saving Warwick from the airport. Things are moving quickly now.

Additional jobs, additional tax revenue, entire new commercial/hotel district, etc.... Why would anyone want that?

SteveD I know right. Why would we want that? But lets look at the source of the complaints here. Solomon, Langseth, Cushman. Three of the least respected men in the city.

Time will tell.

Michael 2012; Logan Airport has had 30 million passengers during 2013. Green Airport is a nice regional airport. For an airport, their cost per passenger is too high! The airport will be able to provide some international flights but don't expect a great selection/availability of flight choices. In the final analysis, Green Airport will supplement Logan, it can't compete with it. Green is mainly expanding for commercial traffic-UPS, Fed Ex, etc.

If RIAC can't budget plan for relocating ball fields for children, what unforeseeable costs haven't they budgeted/planned for regarding the runway expansion?

I will pay extra to fly out of TF Green rather than the hassel of 1 hr ride to Boston and 1 hr return home assuming there is no traffic jams !!

The very last thing I want to do after a long flight is travel by road for a long period of time. Furthermore, I can easily find a ride to TF Green but it's not so easy to have some one drive me and pick me from Boston.

No one said TF Green's plan was to over come Logan.

Regarding the ball fields which strangely has become some what of the most major planning of the whole operation which still amazes me. Anyways, in any projects there are cost over runs and in some cases bids that come in lower. The bid to take down the hanger on Airport Rd came in a lot cheaper than expected. So any cost over runs with the ball fields well there is your money if you will.

You cannot move the ball fields to and City or State Park. There isn't enough parking at Rocky Point anyways. Further more, who is going to want to walk for miles with equipment.

But you made some valid points. TF Green will supplement Logan but in a much larger role. It's not just about passenger it's about that freight international.

I also think most forget that this has the authority encouragment from some top officials. Whether you respect them or not Gov Chaffee, and even the President has signed off on this project. In fact, it was the President that agreed to the federal funding !!!

So it really doesn't matter what we think. It was approved to expand, the money was obtained, and it was well thought out (over 10 years of planning and red tape).

Look at it as an infrastructure improvement along with added safety.

By 2017 the airport will be fully expanded.

"Lets hunker down and keep infrastructure the way it is"? We've done that in Rhode Island for years. Not just for T. F. Green with it's 1960s runways but roads, bridges, state colleges etc. and while other states have moved ahead Rhode Island has stagnated and business, industry jobs and opportunity have marched out the door.

OK Lattitude41 and Michael2012 - I hear you. Suggest you go to the General Assembly and get it to agree to borrow the hundreds of millions required to build out the Green Dream - because that is exactly what is required by state law. President Obama can write letters to RIAC all day long but that will not liberate one dollar from the U.S. House. Suggest you get one of our reps to sponsor a hearing in the House to spell out just how urgent a problem we have in RI for an expanded runway. Because that is what it will take.

And by the way, be ready to pay the juice on all of that borrowing starting with the $500,000 per year to service the debt on the ball fields on top of the $28 million per year RIAC is struggling with to cover the existing debt.

RIAC is supposed to be run like a business - not a corporate welfare program. Let's start now!

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to log in.
Welcome to RIjobs.com
Your hot stuff
Photos
Blogs
Stories
Video
The Savory Affair, New England’s premier event planning firm, released unique ways engaged couples can incorporate cultural elements into their wedding day in order to show …
The Savory Affair, New England’s premier event planning firm, released unique ways engaged couples can incorporate cultural elements into their wedding day in order to show …