Overall, airport projects will ring up a quarter of a billion dollar tab in airport improvements, home acquisitions and home soundproofing. Fredericks estimates more than $62 million will be spent on projects this summer.
Fredericks, along with Dan Porter, RIAC vice president of planning and environmental, had just completed giving Mayor Scott Avedisian a real overview of an airport project from a vantage that few get. Rather than seated in front of a screen with a presentation filled with data, the mayor joined Jim Warcup, a pilot and state aeronautics inspector, in the state helicopter for a 500-feet-up view of the work being done.
And seeing they were up in the air, they took a look at a few other Warwick points of interest including Rocky Point, Apponaug and the circulator project and City Centre Warwick and how the former Elizabeth Mill site, where heavy equipment is clearing the remains of the brick building, fits into the vision of a mixed use development with its connections to the highway, rail and airport.
Avedisian said yesterday there was noticeable progress, especially at Winslow Park, since he last made an aerial tour last fall.
What an aerial view provides is a perspective of the airport in relation to the rest of the city. It’s big. And two of the five major projects crews are working on also take up huge chunks of land. The new Winslow Park softball and soccer fields that Fredericks scheduled for a July 1 completion occupy more than 20 acres. Softball diamonds were clearly visible, as were crews building the concession stand and the green terrace of soccer fields with sprinklers jetting.
Relocating the fields is costing about $7 million.
What hasn’t started is work on the Airport Road intersection for access to the fields. The road to the maintenance garage on the northeast end of the airfield is the access road to the park. Fredericks said a traffic signal on Airport Road may not be in place by the time the playing fields are turned over to the leagues, but it is on the drawing boards.
On the other end of the airport, where Winslow Park is today, is the other visible alteration. With more than a dozen houses gone, trees removed and the area leveled, the corridor for a longer runway and the relocation of Main Avenue stands out. Ground won’t be broken for the runway extension until next year with completion targeted for Dec. 7, 2017.
But first is the relocation of Main Avenue, a project that will start this spring. Fredericks said bids for the job, which were opened last week, are within the $6.5 million budget and being reviewed. The work involving the looping of Main Avenue around the extended runway will be done without interrupting traffic, Fredericks said.
“It’s almost like a giant chess game,” says Fredericks. “First you have to relocate Winslow before you do Main Avenue, and you need to do Main Avenue before the runway.”
A third project, but not seemingly as big from the air, is the extension of the safety area at the end of Runway 34. This is the shorter of the airport’s two runways and is used when winds are predominantly from the east or west. The opposite end of this runway, Runway 16, now meets Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements with the removal of Hangar 1 and the installation of EMAS (engineered material arresting system) at the end of the runway. EMAS is a system of compressible concrete blocks designed to stop an aircraft that has overshot the runway. EMAS will also be used at the 34 end of the runway, but in addition to this work the safety area is being extended into the Buckeye Brook wetlands. To offset the lost wetlands, RIAC will restore wetlands north of the brook at the culvert at Lakeshore Drive. RIAC will also install a new and wider culvert that should allow for the easier passage of spawning herring and mitigate flooding of Lakeshore Drive. Fredericks put the cost of the runway project at $30 million.
An even more costly project at $33.2 million is the glycol, or deicing fluid, recovery system in the shadow of the control tower. From the air what’s visible of the system is a pair of storage tanks and a rectangular treatment plant. Most of the system of drainage lines was finished last summer. Fredericks called the system one of only four like it in the country and that it will be completed by this Friday.
Totally hidden, at least from the air, is the second phase of soundproofing of dwelling units that are within the noise contour. Overall, more than 500 units will be soundproofed. Porter said under this phase 150 single-family homes and 40 condos in the Lockwood condo complex would be sound insulated.
Avedisian remarked on what is a marked improvement in communication and cooperation with RIAC attributing those improvements to Fredericks, former RIAC Chair Kathleen Kittner and current Chair John Savage. He also said former Gov. Lincoln Chafee also made a point of keeping the city informed and focusing attention on ways the city and state could benefit from airport developments such as courting and bringing jetBlue to Green Airport. He said they have become the good neighbor they once professed to be.
On the tour, the helicopter made a turn over the Lockwood condos. The extent of the noise contour is Apponaug Cove, but that could change.
Porter said the noise contours are updated every five to eight years. The last one was done in 2008. Fredericks is uncertain what a new noise study will show. He points out that advances in design have made for quieter aircraft.
That’s not the total of the work to be done. In a follow-up email, Fredericks said improvements would be made to Hangar 2, a triturator for aircraft lavatory waste upgrade, closed circuit TV system expansion, and some terminal entrance improvements.
But he has no qualms saying that while aircraft may be quieter there will be no lack of airport-related activity on the ground this summer.