For the first time in about eight years, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) is getting back into the business of sound insulating residents within high noise contours around runways.
The work, which can include the installation of central air conditioning, window and door replacement and insulation, is projected to start this June and continue until 2017, when an estimated 564 housing units will have been sound insulated. The first of four phases targets 120 residences within the 65 DNL [average 65 decibel day/night level].
Those homeowners were invited to attend a workshop last night, but because of the snowstorm, the meeting has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Buttonwoods Community Center. Homeowners were notified of their eligibility for the voluntary program and of the meeting by letter.
“This meeting will not be the only chance [to learn about the noise mitigation program],” RIAC President and CEO Kelly Fredericks promised Tuesday. Fredericks said the intent of the program is to provide a “better and quieter home environment.” He said he can understand why people may be skeptical about insulating their homes, but he is confident when they have the full explanation of the program they’ll want to participate.
Sound insulating near the airport is hardly new. Since the program started in the late ’80s, about 1,200 housing units have been insulated. The program was designed to be ongoing until all the affected units were treated, however funding was concentrated in the voluntary acquisition program for homes within the 70 DNL noise contour.
This time, said Brian Schattle, RIAC senior vice president of finance, a projected $55 million to $57 million will be spent on insulation and acquisitions. He put the noise portion of the package at $30 million. Funding, he said, would come from various federal grants and 10 to 20 percent of costs being picked up by RIAC.
This does not include the cost of properties acquired because of an extension of Runway 5-23. The runway is Green’s longest and is to be extended from 7,100 to 8,700 feet. That project is slated for completion by December of 2017.
“I look at this as a ‘good news’ story,” Fredericks said of the soundproofing.
The work also promises to be good for local contractors. In previous years, RIAC awarded a single contract for sound insulation. This time, explained Dan Porter, RIAC vice president for aviation planning, they will be advertising for bids on two contracts of 60 houses each.
Generally, the work takes about 10 days to complete. Contractors, he said, would concentrate in neighborhoods, working on multiple houses at the same time. Work was done over the summer on about a dozen homes that served as a pilot for the program.
Just because a housing unit is within the 65 DNL contour does not mean it is eligible for the program. Porter said eligibility also depends on interior noise. Those readings will be taken with meters during airplane operations, to arrive at an average interior day/night noise level. If interior noise level is 45 decibels or more, the unit is eligible.
Lockwood condominiums, the former Lockwood School on West Shore Road, will need to be measured, for instance.
“We’ll have to see whether they qualify on not,” Porter said.