By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ERLANGER - Airport noise sufficient to make dwellings uninhabitable could affect a 24-percent larger area in 2010 than it does now.
That was the worst-case scenario outlined Wednesday by noise consultants engaged by the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
The noise boundaries could extend into Ohio for the first time and put in jeopardy legal agreements with the Sisters of Charity and Delhi Township.
While no additional residences would be affected in the scenario outlined by noise study consultants Landrum & Brown, airport officials still said they would do everything possible to contain growth of the high-noise area.
"We understand this baseline scenario is unacceptable, and this is why we are doing this (study),'' said Dale Huber, the airport's deputy aviation director.
The scenarios were presented Wednesday as more than 100 residents attended a public workshop on high-noise airport issues and officials weigh the impact of a possible 28 percent increase in air traffic at the Cincinnati regional airport by 2010.
The 18-month, $1.2 million study of airport noise - which could be completed by early next year - is being undertaken primarily because of a dramatic increase in nighttime activity at the airport and the possibility of night flight numbers rising even more. A new north-south runway also is set to open late next year.
Among those residents participating in Wednesday's workshop was Larry Bailey, who lives in Hebron's Thornwilde subdivision to the northwest of the airport.
"I moved here from Delhi, so I was already used to the noise - but it's really gotten a lot worse lately, especially at night,'' Bailey said. "Now it's gotten to the point where it's an alarm clock, which is no fun with a 6-month old daughter.''
Since 1992, the airport has spent $135 million on noise problems, primarily funded through fees assessed on all tickets through the airport. The money has been used for home buyouts and to purchase assistance or sound insulation for those homes that fell inside the federally mandated high-noise contour.
The line is set by determining the average level of noise over a 24-hour period. Anything over 65 decibels - almost as loud as listening to a vacuum cleaner from 10 feet away - has been deemed unsuitable for residential housing by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The 2010 scenario also included the assumption that air cargo company DHL Worldwide Express would consolidate all its operations at the local airport.
That could mean DHL would grow from its current 86 takeoffs and landings a night, or 6 percent of all traffic, to more than 240 takeoffs and landings a night at Cincinnati, or 13 percent of all traffic.
DHL last year purchased Airborne Express, which operates its main hub in Wilmington, about 50 miles north of Cincinnati. It also opened a $300 million-plus new hub sorting facility last year at the local airport.
DHL officials, including one who serves on the noise study's advisory committee, have continued to say that no decision has yet been made on what to do about consolidating the two hub operations or whether they will continue to operate separately.
It was late-night or early-morning flights that brought the most complaints from those in attendance at the public meeting.
"It's getting to the point where I have to go to bed at 9 at night because the planes start waking me up at 4:30 a.m.,'' said Kate Massey, who lives just south of the airport in Florence's Hempstead subdivision.
If airport noise increases as dramatically as consultants projected in the worst-case scenario, it could exceed a 62-decibel limit agreed to between the airport and the Sisters of Charity, whose motherhouse is in Delhi, along with the College of Mount St. Joseph in Delhi Township, which the order operates. The airport has a similar agreement with that township.
Both agreements state that either party can sue the airport if noise exceeds those limits.
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