There are so many reasons not to support the Tweed Airport Expansion: Air & Noise pollution that will affect a 12-mile radius; Environmental degradation to the surrounding, fragile ecosystem; Asymmetric impact on the low-income community around Tweed; the US is reducing regional air travel; it's not good for business.
By Shirley McCarthy, MD, PhD, a professor emeritus at the Yale School of Medicine
This article first appeared in the Yale Daily News (link).
The plans to massively expand Tweed New Haven Airport demonstrate a disregard for human health and the adjacent ecosystem. The surrounding neighborhoods in several towns are highly populated; therefore, lives would be forever changed. There is ample scientific evidence that airplane noise pollution causes annoyance; disturbs sleep and increases use of psychotropic medications; impairs cognitive performance; increases the incidence of hypertension, myocardial infarction, and stroke; decreases academic performance of children by affecting their cognitive skills, such as reading and memory; and decreases standardized academic test scores.
Furthermore, the air pollution for residents living near the airport is significant, decreasing health due to a number of causes but primarily from respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Premature mortality is increased within 12.5 miles of an airport.
Airplane de-icing compounds entering the Sound are toxic to marine and shoreline animals; loss of vital wetlands and other habitats would cause wildlife death and disrupt a major migratory bird pathway. Wildlife must be protected; in the last 50 years, the planet has lost 70 percent of its wildlife and North America has lost three billion birds. Insects are going extinct at eight times the high extinction rate of vertebrates.
Expanding this airport completely ignores our urgent need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, not markedly increase them. New Haven and Yale leaders are putting economics and convenience above the urgent need to decrease greenhouse gases. France is considering banning private jets since aviation is one of the planet’s top carbon emitters. Private jets are estimated to cause five to 14 times as much pollution as commercial planes per passenger, and 50 times as much as trains. Electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft are already flying! UPS has committed to buying 10 electric aircraft from Burlington, Vermont-based Beta Technologies beginning in 2024, with an option to buy an additional 150 of the aircraft. There are more than 700 designs from nearly 350 companies that are trying to get into the electric vertical take-off business.
Why push ahead with a soon-to-be outmoded transportation project that will irrevocably damage public health and the environment? Why take business from Bradley International Airport that has recently expanded?
Finally, this planned expansion is an obvious example of social and environmental injustice; decreasing the property values, the health and quality of life for those living near the airport and damaging their adjacent ecosystems.
Please cancel this proposal.
On October 7, 2022, the United States joined the nations of the world in agreeing to reduce carbon emissions from air travel, targeting net zero emissions by 2050.
Recommended approaches to achieve these goals include reducing short-haul flights, where travelers can easily cover the same ground by train or bus; reducing travel from small airports which are more likely to have empty seats on smaller, less efficient planes; and forcing companies and governments to invest in more efficient planes or cleaner fuels.
The airline industry has long been exempt from policies to curb the pollution it creates. Leaded fuel, banned from automobile use decades ago, continues to be used in airplanes, leading to lead poisoning at levels akin to Flint, MI around small airports. Airplane idling causes the air quality near airports to be dangerously bad, increasing risks of asthma, heart disease, and even early mortality rates within at least 10 miles.
As our federal government ponders how to meet these commitments, our local government might reconsider the decision to expand Tweed New Haven Airport while New Haveners are within an hour of the second-best airport in the country (according to Condé Nast). Tweed New Haven plans to expand ten-fold from 50,000 passengers in 2019 to 500,000 passengers by 2024; it may add cargo flights and eventually reach 1 million annual passengers.
However, Bradley airport, already three times the size of Tweed’s targeted expansion, has also secured a $240 million contract to expand. The agreement to curb airplane emissions specifically recommends consolidating airports and encouraging larger flights. Undoubtedly, a smarter approach would be to invest exclusively in easier access to Bradley Airport and the three airports serving New York City.
Must we now brace ourselves for the significant pollution and decline in housing values from the Tweed Airport expansion, followed by a sad, polluted empty building reminding us of failed – poorly thought out – industrial policy?
This originally appeared as an Op-ed in the Hartford Courant (link)
Governor Lamont and New Haven Mayor Elicker tell us to celebrate the passage of a private subcontract to manage Tweed airport because it will create jobs by being “good for business.” The Hartford Courant suggests that the agreement is a win for New Haven because the Goldman Sachs-backed subcontractor will finance a major expansion.
As the founder of a Silicon Valley VC-backed startup, perhaps I can educate our policymakers on some important business terms relevant to Tweed:
The hand-waving connection between “business” and airport transportation fails to recognize New Haven’s Competitive Advantages. Transportation access is crucial to build the desired tech hub, but that’s not New Haven’s problem. We are less than 3 hours by car or train from the first- and third-biggest city for venture funding. At 100 minutes from JFK airport in off hours, we’re not much farther out than a Brooklynite. Connectivity will further improve with expanded Bradley, LaGuardia, and Union Stations.
New Haven offers affordability, easy access to outdoor activities, and a vibrant, diverse community. This is why my husband (also a tech founder) and I moved our businesses and young family back to our beloved hometown after years in NYC. New Haven should lean into those strengths, not try to imitate some vague definition of “good for business.”
Expanding Tweed will actually make New Haven a less desirable place to live. US News and World Report’s Best Places to Live index considers Air Quality and Commute Times in its score. Tweed’s expansion will destroy both.
Senator Murphy claims business owners say “they could grow jobs if they had the ability to bring their workers and their investors, their boards in and out of Tweed.” But a good product manager knows that customers don’t know what they want, which is why tech firms build minimum viable products (MVPs) before investing heavily in a new offering. Shame on the CEO who goes whole hog on a high-cost, high-risk, iron-clad contract without testing a simple solution first.
Our leaders should build an MVP offering easy access to Bradley and the New York City airports. Google and other Silicon Valley companies have headquarters far outside San Francisco, but they provide comfortable, internet-enabled bus service. Employees love it. Why not experiment with similar transportation from New Haven’s soon-to-be enhanced Union Station?
Cannibalization occurs when a new product steals customers from an existing product offered by the same company. Connecticut simultaneously invested $230M into Bradley airport while committing to expand Tweed. Even worse, the products aren’t even identical: Downtown Hartford is 10 miles from Bradley, while Tweed airport is fewer than three miles from Downtown New Haven. We already know air pollution from airplanes causes respiratory illnesses which decrease educational attainment and earning potential among people living nearby and their future grandchildren. And airport expansions decrease home values within a five-mile radius by between 5 and 10%.
The CT Airport Authority recently noted, with concern, that Bradley is already losing passengers to Tweed – this is worse for us Nutmeggers. Unfortunately, our policymakers can’t address those concerns because they gave away Tweed to a private entity.
We missed an opportunity for Economies of Scale, which says large operations in one place are more efficient than smaller operations in two places. As a business traveler, I personally choose large airports where I can fly direct and rebook if necessary. Business travelers prioritize schedule flexibility and reliability over price.
Speaking of price, Predatory Pricing means selling at a falsely low price in order to corner a market. If an airport privatization and expansion are contested by the local community, expect the anchor airline to offer deeply discounted flights to vacation spots.
Predatory Pricing allows Tweed Director Sean Scanlon to argue that East Haven residents support Tweed because they use Tweed. His extrapolation is completely false. East Haven residents and Mayor Carfora are against the expansion. Buying an airline ticket isn’t a vote of support for a poorly-explained forthcoming expansion which will poison our air; lower the value of our homes; and dump toxic chemicals into the Long Island Sound where we swim, fish, and sail.
Finally, our policymakers should know their product. Avelo’s CEO describes Tweed operations as “primarily geared towards the leisure traveler” and touts the new trip to Wilmington, N.C. because many New Haveners have second retirement homes there. That doesn’t sound like business.
Giving away Tweed to a for-profit entity will NOT be “good for business,” and the agreement is NOT free. Greater New Haven residents will be paying for this decision long after the memories of our cheap vacation in Virginia Beach have faded.
There are healthier, faster, better ways to connect New Haven to the outside world.