To Iron Works Tavern owner Joseph Piscopio, the expansion of T.F. Green Airport’s main runway makes too much economic sense not to happen. So why continue to waste money fighting it?
“I think the area will boom,” said Piscopio, whose restaurant is across the street from a new InterLink train station on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick that serves the airport. “Direct flights are what it is all about. No one wants to stop over.”
That’s why he and many other business leaders in and out of the city have grown weary and frustrated by the many hurdles that have delayed the airport’s long-sought expansion plan – including the latest – a federal court appeal by the Warwick City Council.
“We have been talking about the necessity of lengthening the runway for a decade now and the airport’s competitive disadvantage for a decade,” said Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White after hearing of the appeal. “We thought we had come to the end of the line when the (Federal Aviation Administration) issued the final statements and approved the master plan.”
“Disappointing” was the word used by the Chamber and the Rhode Island Building and Trades Council in a joint statement about the appeal, while “frustrated” was the description from R.I. Airport Corporation CEO Kevin Dillon.
“These are straw men that are being thrown out,” Dillon said about arguments from councilors that the airport’s $200 million construction plans are vague and don’t provide necessary legal protection for the community. “The City Council sat on its hands and did not come back with any suggested language, concerns or any additional items. It is kind of hollow for them to sit there today and say it lacks specificity.”
The appeal, which could last up to three years if there is no settlement, has brought the expansion project to a halt at a time when Dillon said T.F. Green’s short runways are a leading contributor to the airport’s persistent decline in passengers.
“It keeps us at a competitive disadvantage in this industry – airlines are being subjected to weight penalties,” Dillon said, referring to the fact that many planes leave T.F. Green at less than full capacity because of the short runway. “I believe some airlines have left because of this issue. The reality here is over time we have become an inefficient place for airlines.”