Noise impact of altered flight paths to be mostly small, FAA says

Rerouting of Metroplex plan to be minimal in south metro area, according to plans

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Despite concerns raised by local officials, a federal plan to reroute airplane traffic is expected to only cause small changes in south metro-area noise — much of which will be small decreases, according to the federal government's analysis.

What's more, the substantial changes in flight paths traveling to Centennial Airport only would involve about eight flights per day, according to a May 7 presentation the Federal Aviation Administration held in Centennial.

The FAA's NextGen project — an effort to increase safety and efficiency of air transportation across the country — began in 2007 and is expected to be largely in place by 2025. The FAA tags it as “one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in U.S. history.”

Locally, the NextGen Denver Metroplex project aims to optimize arrival and departure at airports including Denver International Airport, Centennial Airport and some others. The rub in the south suburbs is a possible moving of a flight corridor that could run above the areas of Littleton, Englewood and Cherry Hills Village, for example.

But that new path — called BRNKO in the FAA’s lingo and pronounced “Bronco” — only entails about six flights per day on average that would be moved from the older corridor, according to the FAA. About two daily would use a nearby route that ends up over the same south-metro area. Centennial Airport sees about 1,055 daily takeoffs and landings combined, according to the FAA.

Not much change, FAA says

Because most proposed flight paths closely follow what's being flown today, the only notable flight-path changes around Centennial Airport are the PINNR and BRNKO routes, said Adam Kuklin, a design team member on the Denver Metroplex project.

“With PINNR, they're coming this way anyway,” Kuklin said, referring to a proposed route that travels south, roughly above Interstate 25, starting around Greeley and turning southeast over the Denver area.

The BRNKO route would take arrivals from the northeast that currently stay east of I-25 and move them farther north, joining up with PINNR near Greeley and traveling in that same corridor as flights move south.

Flights today already travel along roughly the same corridor as PINNR's would once in the Denver area, and proposed flight paths would come in at the same altitude as today, Kuklin said.

The concentration — how close together the flights are over time — will be largely unchanged, according to the FAA. North of Interstate 70, the PINNR corridor’s estimated 12 flights per day could be more concentrated, but coming toward Centennial Airport, paths will be similar to what they are today, said Allen Kenitzer, FAA spokesman.

The FAA’s map shows a potential area over which BRNKO flights can spread out that covers parts of Englewood, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village and Centennial.

“Current dispersion is close to what you’ll see a year from now,” Kuklin said.

And once BRNKO flights cross the City of Denver border into Arapahoe County cities, its flights largely cover the same areas as current routes do, according to FAA maps.

Noise impact to be small

The plan, which has riled up mayors in the south metro area, is expected to have “no significant impacts” on noise, air quality, wildlife or historic and cultural resources, according to the FAA's own analysis.

That's based on a draft of a report by the FAA dated April 22, called an environmental assessment. The crowd at the May 7 meeting in a community room in Centennial's Public Works Facility — one of several in the metro area where FAA representatives answered questions and took comments about the project — received more specific information with an interactive map program that showed the anticipated change in noise near any address.

Across the south metro area — near Englewood High School, South Platte Park Carson Nature Center in Littleton, Kent Denver School in Cherry Hills Village, and Cherry Creek State Park — average noise level was expected to decrease by small amounts, as much as 0.3 decibels.

Across Centennial, noise also is expected to drop. Near The Streets at SouthGlenn outdoor mall, Castlewood Library, South Parker and East Arapahoe roads, and Smoky Hill Library, noise would decrease by as much as 0.8 decibels.

Near unincorporated Arapahoe County just south of Cherry Creek State Park — where residents report noise complaints in among the most concentrated numbers near Centennial Airport — noise would see essentially no change. Near East Alameda Avenue and Interstate 225 in central Aurora, noise would increase by just 0.03 decibels.

South of Centennial Airport, noise could increase by up to 0.05 decibels in some Lone Tree and Highlands Ranch regions, although some areas would see decreases.

Conversation in restaurants generally hovers around 60 decibels, according to a Purdue University chart. Upper-70s levels are annoyingly loud to some people, the chart said. Only increases of 1.5 decibels or more in areas exposed to 65 decibels and up are considered to “exceed threshold of significance,” according to the study.

Officials watch cautiously

Andrew Firestine, Centennial's assistant city manager, noted that the BRNKO route is the proposed route that city staff is most concerned about.

But “when you look at air traffic in metro area, there's traffic everywhere,” Firestine said at Centennial's May 6 city council meeting. “I'm not sure you can go anywhere in the metro area where there's not overflight.”

The FAA's count May 7 of how many planes would arrive at Centennial Airport on different routes appeared to be the clearest picture yet of how the plan would affect the south metro area.

On the study, Centennial Airport is “still in the digestive mode,” said Deborah Grigsby Smith, airport spokeswoman.

The airport is in the process of asking the FAA for the raw data of the study, what the agency used to write the draft environmental assessment, Grigsby said.

“It's an FAA initiative, not a Centennial Airport initiative,”' Grigsby said. “We feel it's incumbent on our part to make sure we understand all parts before making any reactions.”

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