Opinion

Flight delay at Renton airport

The city and its citizens have geared up to challenge the City of Renton and its plans to upgrade and expand its municipal airport. Renton planners hoped to attract more planes and flights to the facility. However, Island officials and citizens want Renton to ensure that flights will not be routed directly over the Island at low altitude. Islanders had a taste of what might happen with more planes overhead last August when another south county runway was shut down sending extra flights directly over the Island. And many Islanders were stunned to find out just last fall that this expansion was nearly a done deal. The City of Renton had started the process to redevelop the airport as early as 2001.

After a contentious public meeting about the airport crowded with unhappy Islanders on Jan. 29, the Mercer Island City Council wisely decided to hire an outside attorney with specific expertise in protecting communities from the onslaught of aircraft noise. The City also enlisted the help of Islander citizen and former mayor Elliott Newman, to serve as our liaison to the project. But probably due to the number of Islanders outraged by the potential impact of increased air traffic and noise, Renton officials have taken notice and backed down.

Renton has wisely decided they need to slow the process down and gather more data to determine the impacts the new facility would have on the Island and the neighborhoods surrounding the flight paths. Good for them. Renton must also determine if and when the facility could obtain and install new navigation technology that would guide pilots on a flight path away from the Island.

It is ironic to note the airfield at the airport is named after Islander Clayton Scott, the pioneer aviator and long time Island resident who died just months ago. He would surely encourage a solution to benefit his airfield and protect Island skies and ears.

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