Philadelphia International Airport Expansion Plan Term Paper

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Philadelphia Airport Expansion Plan

Over the last several years, a variety of U.S. airports have been experiencing tremendous amounts of congestion. Part of the reason for this, is because many locations are built in areas that have seen rapid increases in the number of homes and businesses around facility. While at the same time, the total amounts of passenger and cargo traffic have risen exponentially. Over the course of time, this has caused the amount of safety incidents to increase dramatically. Evidence of this can be seen with a study that was conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They found that between 1995 and 2006, the total number of runway mishaps rose by 37%. This is because many airports are often congested and unable to handle the tremendous amounts of traffic. Once this happens, it means that the chances of particular facility seeing some kind of incident will increase significantly. (Tategate 2007)

As a result, the FAA has been aggressively focusing on reducing the total amounts of congestion. Where, they have been spending $1 billion per year modernizing the nation's air traffic control system. While other areas, were neglected due to funding issues. A few of the most notable include: the runways, terminals, ground / baggage transportations and parking. As the agency claims that they need an additional $510 million to finish upgrading the 38 major airports around the country. This is significant, because it is showing how a number of facilities around the United States are facing infrastructure related issues. ("FAA Approves Philadelphia Airport Expansion Plan," 2011)

In the case of Philadelphia International, they have been dealing with similar issues. As the facility, is known for having the second worst record for delays in the country. While the total amounts of traffic are accounting for: 472,688 takeoffs or 30 million passengers. In 2030, these numbers are expected to rise with the airport estimated to welcome 60 million visitors. During the process is when many of the existing facilities will face increased amounts of strain. A few of the most notable include: lengthening two runways, building a fifth runway along the Delaware River, a new commuter terminal, more gates, extra parking and building a new ground transportation system. To do this, the airport was given preliminary approval for the $5.2 billion plan by the FAA. However, many different communities around the facility have been opposed to these different plans. The reason why, is because residents are fearful about how these changes could impact the community or the environment. To determine both sides of this issue requires: examining the underlying reasons for this project, possible effects on the ecosystem and how this is impacting the communities around Philadelphia International. Once this occurs, is when we will see the benefits and drawbacks of the airport expansion plan. ("FAA Approves Philadelphia Airport Expansion Plan," 2011)

The Reasons for the Project

The site for Philadelphia International was first developed in 1925. At the time, this was supposed to be an ideal location for training aviators and National Guard pilots. However, the pressures to attract passenger traffic meant that the facility would become available to commercial airlines by 1926 (with Eastern using the airport as hub). This helped to develop the facility as many other airlines began to offer service to the region. However, a major issue for site was that South Philadelphia began to rapidly expand toward the perimeter. Over the course of time the lack of land space would limit the size of the airport to select amounts of acreage that city owns. ("History of Philadelphia International," 2011)

Throughout the decades, there were major improvement that to the sit. A few of the most notable include: the expansion of the main terminal several times, the addition of runways / cargo terminals and the introduction of a rail line that directly linked Philadelphia International with the rest of the city. The combination of these different elements is important, because they provided a basic foundation for the airport to meet the needs of businesses and the general public throughout the region. Once this occurred, it meant that the airport would become a hub that helped to provide a major economic boost to Philadelphia. ("History of Philadelphia International," 2011)

However, despite the tremendous amounts of improvements over the years, the space to expand became limited. The reason why, is because the city has built up around the facility and they had no more room to grow eastward (thanks to the Delaware River). These different factors meant that the facility would see limited improvements in an effort to keep up with the various changes. Over the course of time, this helped Philadelphia to rapidly expand. Yet, it failed to address the issue of traffic congestion. This is because, any kind of improvements were focused on select aspects of the airport. As it failed, to deal with issues such as space; which were necessary for expanding the runways and improving the terminals. To keep up with these changes, the city has proposed dramatically expanding the perimeter of the facility. This means that city will have to tear down approximately 70 different homes to achieve the proposed changes to the facility. As a result, heated emotions between proponents and activists (who are against the plan) are heating up. This is because there are divisions about these issues should be rectified. ("History of Philadelphia International," 2011)

Possible Effect on the Ecosystem

The new project will have possible effect on the ecosystem. The way that this will occur is through: the air, on the land and in the river. The way that these changes will have an effect on air levels is to encourage a larger number of flights in and out of the area. This will cause the total amounts of pollution in South Philadelphia to increase. While at the same time, the noise levels will rise from the larger number of aircraft that are taking off and landing. As far as the land is concerned, the proposed changes will require redoing the infrastructure around the facility. This means that there will be greater amounts of dust and trash that are placed into the atmosphere during the process of redesigning the facility. The expansion of the runways along with Delaware River; means that there will be increased amounts of pollutants placed into the water. As the plan, is calling for 24.5 acres of the river to be filled in to make room for the new runway. The damages to the ecosystem will occur during the process of building the runways, with chemicals and other building material going into the river. This will affect the fish inside the river. When planes are taking off and landing, this will leave various gases from the exhaust right above the water. Over the course of time, this could have an impact on the migration patterns of birds in the vicinity of airport. (Luce, 2011)

These different elements are important, because they are showing how many of the environmental groups are opposed to the plan. The reason why, is because they believe that all of them will lead to greater amounts of environmental damage to the area. As the construction, will have short to medium term negative impact on the species of fish inside the river. This is because the process will involve tearing up the Earth and moving large amounts of debris. Once this happens, is when there will be damage to the ecosystem. (Luce, 2011)

When the construction is complete, the number planes taking off and landing will have effect on the nesting / migration patterns of birds. This is because of the new runway being built along the river (which servers as their habitat will be destroyed). At the same time, the new facility along with train will mean that there will be greater amounts of trash and waste that must be disposed of. These different elements are highlighting how the current plan has the potential to cause tremendous amounts of damage to the ecology around the facility. (Luce, 2011)

The Communities around Philadelphia International

There are several different communities that will be impacted by the expansion of Philadelphia International these include: South Philadelphia and Tinicum Township. In both cases, the City of Philadelphia will have to destroy about 72 homes and they will have to relocate 80 different businesses. This is problematic, because many residents will claim that these actions are going directly against their basic rights to remain in their homes. As, many believe that this kind of expansion could be violation of their constitutional rights. This has pushed both communities to organize and speak out against the proposal. The reason why, is because they feet that it is destroying their way of life. (Harvey, 2011)

However, under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Polices Act of 1970 the city has the power to engage in these actions. This is because the law allows the government, to exercise the power of imminent domain over property owners who…

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