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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesRUNWAY PROJECT STILL IN HOLDING PATTERN

RUNWAY PROJECT STILL IN HOLDING PATTERN

The runway extension project at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport is still in a hold pattern while the V.I. Port Authority and nearby residents negotiate a solution to problems caused by construction.
A month ago, the Port Authority’s board of directors voted to halt the $18-million project because dust blowing from the construction site was affecting residents in the Yellow Cedar neighborhood. The residents said that since work began they have been suffering from respiratory ailments, asthma aggravations, unusual allergies and excessive coughing.
In the meantime, the Department of Planning and Natural Resource issued a corrective action order calling for the Port Authority to control "fugitive dust" and produce a plan to temporarily relocate the residents.
Relocating the residents permanently, however, was always a part of the Port Authority’s overall plan for the runway project, said Shirley Smith, the agency’s spokeswoman. Because the day-night sound level produced by increased air traffic would exceed federal standards, homes in Yellow Cedar would no longer be fit for habitation.
"It’s not unusual relocating people when you have a project like this," Smith said, adding that a similar situation occurred in 1996 when 12 properties were taken due to airport expansion.
In total, there are 31 properties that must be purchased by the Port Authority, 25 of which have dwellings that house 65 families. Ronald Russell, the attorney for the Yellow Cedar Residents Association, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The Port Authority’s buyout plan has two phases, the first being two appraisals for each property, Smith said. The appraisals were completed last month before the project was stopped. The next phase involves relocating residents to one of their three choices of homes with equitable value. V.I. residents who are renting are also eligible to be relocated, Smith said.
"This is all part of the original plan," she said. "It has nothing to do with the DPNR order."
After DPNR issued its order on March 17 calling for a temporary plan to accommodate residents, the Port Authority had 15 days to request a hearing. As of yet, Smith said a hearing hasn’t been scheduled. DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett didn’t return calls to his office.
"Basically, we’re in limbo until that hearing," Smith said.
Since 90 percent of the buyout – and a large portion of the expansion construction – will be paid for using federal discretionary funds, Smith said the Port Authority is concerned about the delay.
"But at the same time we’re worried about the residents as well," she said. "There are a lot of issues to consider right now. We want to reach an amicable solution with the residents. It was always a part of the plan."
The four-phase, $18-million project will extend the existing runway from 7,600 feet to 10,000 feet and is 90 percent federally funded. Barring complications from the work stoppage, completion of the runway is scheduled for sometime in calendar year 2001.
The extension project has been on the drawing board for years with the goal of accommodating the larger, long-range aircraft operated by major airlines and charter operations. Once completed, the runway will allow non-stop turnaround service to the V.I. from Europe, North America and South America.

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The runway extension project at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport is still in a hold pattern while the V.I. Port Authority and nearby residents negotiate a solution to problems caused by construction.
A month ago, the Port Authority’s board of directors voted to halt the $18-million project because dust blowing from the construction site was affecting residents in the Yellow Cedar neighborhood. The residents said that since work began they have been suffering from respiratory ailments, asthma aggravations, unusual allergies and excessive coughing.
In the meantime, the Department of Planning and Natural Resource issued a corrective action order calling for the Port Authority to control "fugitive dust" and produce a plan to temporarily relocate the residents.
Relocating the residents permanently, however, was always a part of the Port Authority’s overall plan for the runway project, said Shirley Smith, the agency’s spokeswoman. Because the day-night sound level produced by increased air traffic would exceed federal standards, homes in Yellow Cedar would no longer be fit for habitation.
"It’s not unusual relocating people when you have a project like this," Smith said, adding that a similar situation occurred in 1996 when 12 properties were taken due to airport expansion.
In total, there are 31 properties that must be purchased by the Port Authority, 25 of which have dwellings that house 65 families. Ronald Russell, the attorney for the Yellow Cedar Residents Association, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The Port Authority’s buyout plan has two phases, the first being two appraisals for each property, Smith said. The appraisals were completed last month before the project was stopped. The next phase involves relocating residents to one of their three choices of homes with equitable value. V.I. residents who are renting are also eligible to be relocated, Smith said.
"This is all part of the original plan," she said. "It has nothing to do with the DPNR order."
After DPNR issued its order on March 17 calling for a temporary plan to accommodate residents, the Port Authority had 15 days to request a hearing. As of yet, Smith said a hearing hasn’t been scheduled. DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett didn’t return calls to his office.
"Basically, we’re in limbo until that hearing," Smith said.
Since 90 percent of the buyout – and a large portion of the expansion construction – will be paid for using federal discretionary funds, Smith said the Port Authority is concerned about the delay.
"But at the same time we’re worried about the residents as well," she said. "There are a lot of issues to consider right now. We want to reach an amicable solution with the residents. It was always a part of the plan."
The four-phase, $18-million project will extend the existing runway from 7,600 feet to 10,000 feet and is 90 percent federally funded. Barring complications from the work stoppage, completion of the runway is scheduled for sometime in calendar year 2001.
The extension project has been on the drawing board for years with the goal of accommodating the larger, long-range aircraft operated by major airlines and charter operations. Once completed, the runway will allow non-stop turnaround service to the V.I. from Europe, North America and South America.