Construction to expand and reconfigure a runway at Kennedy Airport is scheduled to begin now that the Federal Aviation Administration has determined the project would not have any "significant" noise or other environmental impacts.
The Port Authority, which manages the Queens airport, plans to lengthen runway 4L/22R to 12,079 feet from its current 11,351 feet and widen it to 200 feet from 150 feet. The plan, revised by the authority after residents voiced fears about additional noise, also includes shifting the threshold -- where planes touch down -- north by 460 feet and repaving the runway.
The expansion is necessary to comply with federal design standards, Edward Knoesel, Port Authority environmental services manager, said.
The construction project, expected to last more than a year, will not cause any air traffic congestion for planes, Knoesel said. Most of the time planes land and take off using only two of JFK's four runways.
"Even at the busiest time, they only use three runways at a time," Knoesel said.
Runway 4L/22R is predominantly used for takeoffs, Port Authority officials said. During construction, those planes will be diverted to the other three runways.
Once completed, runway 4L/22R will be able to accommodate larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, a double-decker widebody jet that is currently the world's largest passenger airliner. At the moment, only one runway at Kennedy is wide enough for the A380 to land.
Since the project will result in less than 1 decibel of additional noise, FAA records say, the agency has deemed that the plan will not have a "significant" impact on residents living near the airport. The residents, however, contend that any noise pollution added to areas already bombarded by the sounds of roaring jet engines would further erode their quality of life.
Residents living under the flight path of runway 22L -- including those in Floral Park, East Hills and Garden City -- fear that traffic diversion would increase the number of planes flying over their homes. That, they say, means more noise pollution.
The FAA did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Initially, the Port Authority had proposed to move the touchdown point north by 3,316 feet, which would have required planes coming in for landing at Kennedy to fly 200 feet lower over Nassau County than they do now.
The Port Authority revised its plan after Nassau residents showed up at several public meetings and complained about the additional noise the original proposal would have generated in their communities. The agency also reconsidered and decided not to cut down about 800 trees in Idlewild Park in Queens.