Planes flying in from the North often cross over Mercer Island or Lake Washington before landing. Photo by Madeline Coats.

Planes flying in from the North often cross over Mercer Island or Lake Washington before landing. Photo by Madeline Coats.

Increased air traffic and aviation demands disturb Island residents

Renton Municipal Airport could see future expansions.

With airport improvements often comes increased air traffic, and much of the regional air traffic takes a path above the Eastside and Mercer Island.

The city of Renton is currently in the process of creating an Airport Master Plan to enhance operational safety and meet future aviation demands at the Renton Municipal Airport.

The Airport Master Plan was last completed in 1997 and partially updated in 2009, according to the city of Renton website. A decade later, Renton has started working toward successfully implementing future sustainable projects.

The proposal is being conducted with 90 percent financial assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration for the planning process. Without a current plan, the airport will be unable to receive further funding by the FAA.

The Renton Airport Advisory Committee will serve as the study committee for the project to guide development and improve stakeholder outreach. The committee is comprised of Renton residents, airport tenants, stakeholders and a representative from the city of Mercer Island.

According to Airport IQ, the airport had 122,908 aircraft operations in 2016, averaging 337 flights per day. The Renton Municipal Airport is an important part of the local economy, with an estimated $6.2 billion in regional economic impact.

The Boeing plant is located across the Cedar River and those planes often depart from the Renton Municipal Airport. The airfield contains a one-mile asphalt runway, two parallel taxiways, and a neighboring water landing surface on the southern shore of Lake Washington.

Under the current airport design, the runway safety area must be 150 feet from the landing strip. If the designation changes, the safety zone may increase to 500 feet.

Should the safety area be extended, zoning may stretch across Airport Way, through South Tobin Street and into the Renton High School baseball fields. Since the airport has both land-based and sea-based landing strips, the additional roadway would need to expand through reconstruction on the ground.

Islanders who live near the airport have expressed concern about the increased air traffic to and from Renton Airport. As the airfield continues to expand, noise levels will escalate in an already loud environment.

“I feel like I live in Burien,” said Mercer Island resident Sheila Billbe. “They are just everywhere, all the time.”

The planes fly so low, Billbe explained, she often thinks they will hit a tree or land on the roof of her house. Booming sounds remain constant until 11:30 p.m., she said. It is not rare to be awoken by them.

“I can’t talk with my husband. I can’t hear the TV,” the long-time Island resident said. “I’d like it if they could just fly over the water instead.”

As referenced in the city of Renton website, current voluntary noise abatement procedures and flight patterns are not expected to change as a result of the master plan. On the other hand, the city will collect data to analyze the possibility of minimizing noise impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.

Voluntary noise abatement procedures are already in place for pilots to follow in an attempt to reduce the repetition of flights over Renton neighborhoods. The procedure has been put into place to encourage flights during daylight hours and decrease night time shifts.


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Renton Municipal Airport is only a few streets away from the Boeing Plant. Planes of all sizes depart from this airway. Photo by Madeline Coats.

Renton Municipal Airport is only a few streets away from the Boeing Plant. Planes of all sizes depart from this airway. Photo by Madeline Coats.

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