Neighbors furious over proposed runway expansion at Tweed-New Haven Airport

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NEW HAVEN -- The second of two planned meetings saw another at-capacity crowd at Nathan Hale Elementary Thursday night after the room was packed on Wednesday.

Angry neighbors clashed with airport officials from Tweed New Haven Airport over a plan to expand the airport's primary runway from 5,600 feet to 6,100 feet.

"We're not expanding the airport beyond our fence line," said Tim Larson, executive director of Tweed New Haven Airport. "We're simply taking what's currently out there and paving one end, and half of the other to accommodate this commercial air service which will be scheduled and appropriate."

The airport would pave over an unoccupied grassy "safety zone" on either side of the runway to achieve its desired length.

At the informational meeting, airport administrators touted the economic benefits of the expansion, saying it would help the area and make the airport less reliant on taxpayer subsidies. Expanding the runway would also allow the airport to grow its current offering of commercial flights from four daily flights to Philadelphia, to a planned 25 to destinations including Chicago, Washington and Florida.

Neighbors who live within earshot of the runway weren't pleased with the plan. "The big part is the noise, the quality of life, the pollution, the traffic, the kids walking to the street," said Margaret Wheeler, a neighbor. "This is a school area, it's a state park at the end of the road with beaches."

Neighbors were also worried about the land value on their homes, which they claimed would take a major hit.

The plan would still need approval from state lawmakers. In 2009, the airport entered into an agreement with the town of East Haven saying it would cap its runway length at 5,600 feet. The agreement became a state law and would have to be amended in order for the proposal to move forward.

Neighbors say they're going to continue their fight, but Larson said neighbors would barely see a difference if the changes went through. "We need to do a better job demonstrating and getting them comfortable, that this is going to be a clean, safe, operation."