This airport extension comes without a fuss


The interim president of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) is looking for an extension and this time he’s getting it without a lot of fuss.

It’s not another runway extension Peter Frazier wants, although his request made last Friday of City Council President Bruce Place has to do with a longer runway.

Frazier had expected that by the end of September, RIAC would know whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would fund the project to extend Green’s main runway from 7,166 to 8,700 feet.

That didn’t happen and when it didn’t, Frazier knew he couldn’t keep his side of a memorandum of understanding to provide property owners affected by the project a timetable of when their homes would be acquired or when they could expect to participate in a voluntary acquisition program.

So, on Friday, Frazier asked for a three-week extension.

“We want to do it once and do it right,” Frazier said.

Seeing that RIAC has met with the Warwick Firefighters Soccer Association and the Apponaug Girls Fastpitch Softball League, as well as city officials, on the relocation of Winslow Park fields, Mayor Scott Avedisian said he has no problem with the extension. The groups met last Thursday on plans to convert land cleared of homes in the Lake Shore Drive neighborhood into the recreational park.

Place hadn’t seen the letter as of yesterday morning, however, when informed of what Frazier is looking for, he said, “I see no reason why we wouldn’t do that.”

At issue for RIAC is the financial plan for the runway extension.

What RIAC is looking for is a letter of intent (LOI) that the FAA plans to fund the $84 million project. RIAC is hopeful of 75 percent funding, but would probably proceed with something less. With the LOI, RIAC would borrow the money to do the work, knowing it would be repaid when the extension is completed.

Two aspects of the longer runway impact property owners.

RIAC will need to acquire 16 properties in order to relocate Main Avenue so as to loop it around the end of the runway. Frazier said these mandatory acquisitions would be made by Sept. 30, 2014, assuming the funding is in place. The second group of properties falls within the runway protection zone. These 64 properties would come under the voluntary acquisition program to be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.

What RIAC promised to give property owners in the agreement where the City Council dropped an appeal of the longer runway project in exchange for various guarantees, was a timetable of those acquisitions by the end of September.

The intent is to give property owners an idea of when they would become eligible for the buyout program.

“It needs to be done in a manner that is logical,” says Frazier. Yet there are variables. He notes RIAC wants to be sensitive to hardship cases that could step up or delay when a property is bought. Also, he said, there is a concern that the houses being acquired are in clusters, so as not to acquire neighborhoods by piecemeal.

When the financial plan is finalized, RIAC will be able to provide property owners a year within the next five years of when they would be eligible for the voluntary acquisition program. The plan is for all 64 property owners to become eligible for the program by the time the runway extension is finished in 2017.

Naturally, this all hinges on money.

Frazier said he’s heard nothing that would lead him to believe the FAA won’t approve funding.

“I’m fully confident we’re going to get the funding,” he said.

As for an extension, city officials were ready to give him that.

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