Shawn R. Beals / ctnewsjunkie photo
Sean Scanlon addresses neighbors (Shawn R. Beals / ctnewsjunkie photo)

NEW HAVEN, CT—Tweed New Haven Airport wants to play a more prominent role in the state’s transportation infrastructure, but nearby residents are skeptical of long-term promises of economic growth.

Neighbors have continuously complained about the noise, traffic and air quality issues they associate with the airport, but many said Wednesday at a community meeting that they’ve felt ignored in asking for the airport to be a good citizen.

Tweed is in the early phases of an 18-month, $800,000 master planning study that will make recommendations on infrastructure, environmental needs, parking needs and air traffic projections.

Proponents of growth at Tweed focus on the promise of economic activity new flights would bring to the lower half of Connecticut, possibly convincing people who would otherwise travel to New York City to fly to instead go to New Haven.

But the people who live in the neighborhoods around the airport say a more vibrant airport can only come at their expense.

Central to the planning process is a long-standing goal to lengthen the airport’s primary runway, which would increase the size of the aircraft able to use it and allow more passenger travel from southern Connecticut.

“For a long time expanding our runway has been a critical goal for our airport,” said Tweed Executive Director Sean Scanlon, who is also a Guilford state representative. “It was a big part of the master plan in 2002 and it’s a big part of the 2019 plan.”

Scanlon told people who attended Wednesday’s meeting that he has spoken with airlines who said they would need 6,000 or 7,000 feet of runway to accommodate larger planes. The current length is 5,600 feet.

Flights between Tweed and Philadelphia and Charlotte generate a combined 50,000 emplanements and deplanements a year, officials said Wednesday. In comparison, Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks handled more than 600,000 passengers in a month four times so far this year.

The meeting Wednesday was in New Haven’s East Shore neighborhood, just a block from the airport. The sometimes tense session included complaints about the smell of jet fuel, rideshare drivers parked all over the neighborhood waiting for passengers, speeding cars, flooding and air pollution.

But aside from quality of life issues, many said they found promises of an economic boon to be dubious.

“Most of us who use it or might use it are living here, so the economic benefit is nothing,” Claudia Bosch said. “Your master plan selling us the golden opportunity of Tweed is totally unrealistic.”

On Thursday there will be another meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the East Haven Senior Center.

Officials from the Connecticut Airport Authority, which has been in discussions to possibly take over management of Tweed, attended the meeting. State Senate President Martin Looney and state representatives also attended.

The length of the runway has been limited by state statutes, but Tweed and the city sued the state to challenge that decision. A federal appeals court found earlier this year that Federal Aviation Administration regulations control airport rather than state statutes, clearing the way for a Tweed to have a longer runway. Officials have said a longer runway wouldn’t include any land acquisition, and would operate entirely within the current airport boundary.

State Attorney General William Tong decided last week to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“By early January we’re going to know whether the court wants to hear this, and if they do we’ll be ready to present our case,” Scanlon said.

Tweed straddles the New Haven and East Haven city line, and it is owned by the city of New Haven. Scanlon said the fears over the effects of rapid expansion come from a long history of an unsatisfactory relationship between the airport and its neighbors. With new mayors in East Haven and New Haven and his recent appointment to the director’s post, a fresh start is a possibility, he said.

“To the extent that this can be a turning point, I want it to be,” Scanlon said.