Love Field Noise Issues to Be Resolved This Weekend

Another update from Asst. City Manager A.C. Gonzalez:

We are re-opening a taxiway which has been closed for construction activity. This will provide a second access route for aircraft to Runway 13R (Denton Dr). This, combined with the existing access route, should remove any obstacles to aircraft accessing the runway. This taxiway will be re-opened by this evening.

Residents who have been dealing with additional noise problems, please email me at angela.hunt@dallascityhall.com on Monday and let me know if you see improvements over the weekend.

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Working to Resolve Noise Problems at Love Field

I’ve received a number of complaints from residents  frustrated with the continuing noise problems with Love Field flights.  Things were supposed to quiet down with the re-opening of the Denton runway in early November, but they haven’t.  I’m committed to working to resolve this and for the last several days, have been investigating the problem and how we can fix it.

I asked Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez to assist on this and he has provided me with this update:

While the Denton Dr runway (RY 13R) was reopened in early November, on-going construction continues to limit aircraft access to the runway even though it is open. Therefore, the amount of traffic on the Lemmon Ave runway (RY 13L) has indeed remained higher than normal (pre-runway closure).

Staff is coordinating with the contractor, FAA Air Traffic staff and Southwest representatives to see if there are options to relieve the congestion which is causing the aircraft access problem to the runway. We expect to know some options to consider by tomorrow, pending the availability of the key people in those organizations.

I will continue to push to get this resolved and will keep you all updated.

Increase in Love Field Noise Due to Runway Reconstruction

After receiving a number of complaints about noise related to planes taking off at Love Field Airport, I obtained the following update from city staff:

The west parallel runway at Love Field, Runway 13R-31L, which runs parallel to Denton Dr., was closed on September 7 for reconstruction of seven connecting taxiways. This project replaces asphalt sections of each taxiway with concrete, and was necessary because the asphalt sections had required emergency repairs at various times the past several years. This project requires the runway to be closed because the work takes place inside the runway safety area. Of course, closure of this runway forces all aircraft to use the east parallel, Runway 13L-31R, which runs parallel to Lemmon Ave. The increase in traffic on this runway is resulting in the noise complaints.

The project is expected to last until November 20, barring any days lost to weather. Knowing this project would be noise-sensitive, we allowed the least amount of time possible for the contractor to complete the work. The contract provides for liquidated damages for delays in completion, and the contractor is working 15-20 hours, 7 days a week in an attempt to avoid liquidated damages.

Council Approves Love Field Proposal

Yesterday, the city council approved an open bidding process for concessions at Love Field Airport.  The process also gives current concessionaires the right of first refusal on 27% of vendor space in the new terminal as incentive to stay through the construction period.

Although I typically don’t like to vote on matters that are briefed the same day, it became clear that another week would not bring greater insight or agreement.

This vote concluded months of discourse on an issue affecting the future of one of Dallas’ largest assets.  As the Wright Amendment is lifted and the city begins to invest more than $1 billion in a new terminal and other airport improvements, it is critical that we make the most of Love Field’s transformation.  That means planning for a terminal that provides the best airport experience for passengers, with a wide range of shops and quality restaurants.  Attracting the best mix of retailers and food and beverage vendors requires an open, transparent, and competitive bid process, and the council accomplished that on Wednesday. 

Is this resolution perfect?  No.  There are some who would argue that there should be no “right of first refusal” option for current concessionaires.  Others would say the current concessionaires deserve a contract extension for space in the new terminal.  But the council’s decision balanced what I believe to be the two most important considerations:  ensuring a great customer experience in the new terminal when it opens as well as in the old terminal during construction. 

Without some incentives to the current concessionaires, the airport might be hard-pressed to find vendors willing to stay in the old terminal space during the construction period, when there will be fewer passengers/customers and a challenging airport configuration.  On the other hand, guaranteeing new terminal space to current concessionaires could reduce the breadth of competitive bidding, a process that provides the greatest likelihood of getting the best vendors for Love Field.

The plan approved yesterday strikes the right balance.  For this reason, I moved to approve this proposal.  It passed with a vote of 11-4.

Wright Amendment Compromise Announced

In March, I and eight of my fellow councilmembers traveled to Washington, DC to meet with our Congressional delegation to discuss various legislative matters. Among the issues we discussed was the Wright Amendment.

All of our congressional representatives, on both sides of the Wright debate, conveyed a sense that the Wright Amendment was not under threat of immediate repeal was going to be chipped away, bit by bit, over the course of several years. (We witnessed an example of this with the recent exclusion of Missouri from the Wright Amendment.)

Our Congressional delegation requested that the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth come up with a local solution or else Congress would do it for us. Without our input, in a decade we would arguably be left with 32 gates and no Wright Amendment in place to reduce the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

The cities have since been negotiating a local solution to the Wright Amendment. At the heart of the discussion, and a critical point for me as the councilmember who represents the neighborhoods most impacted by Love Field, was creating an impact neutral solution. In other words, if the Wright Amendment did not exist, how do we create a solution that would cause no additional noise, pollution, or traffic than that envisioned by the Love Field Master Plan that was premised on 32 gates and the Wright Amendment in place?

The same consultants who created the Master Plan analyzed the traffic, noise contours, and pollution generated by the Master Plan with 32 gates and the Wright Amendment in place. They determined how many gates would have to eliminated to retain the same impact if the Wright Amendment were gone. This analysis was the basis of the compromise announced last week by the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth.

The compromise resolves the debate about the future of the Wright Amendment and Love Field Airport. Last Thursday, Dallas, Fort Worth, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and DFW signed off on the following proposal:

• Immediately allow “through ticketing,” which lets passengers buy a single ticket to a non-Wright Amendment destination, as long as there is a stop-over in a Wright Amendment state.

• Repeal the Wright Amendment in 8 years.

• Reduce the number of gates at Love Field from 32 to 20.

• Create a voluntary noise curfew precluding scheduled flights between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am. (The federal government, not the city, controls noise and flight time issues.)

• The City of Dallas will invest at least $150 million in modernizing and improving Love Field over the next 8 years. Landing fees and facility costs will be adjusted to undertake these improvements.

• Dallas and Fort Worth will oppose commercial passenger service at any other airport over the next 8 years.

• The City of Dallas will extend the leases of American Airlines and Southwest to 2028.

• If Congress passes legislation inconsistent with this agreement, and if Southwest begins flying non-stop to a non-Wright Amendment destination, then Southwest will voluntarily relinquish control of 8 gates to be made available to other carriers. If American Airlines does so, American will relinquish 1 1/2 gates.

• Congress must enact legislation to this effect by December 31, 2006 or the agreement is null and void.

View the agreement.

The decision is now in the hands of our Congressional leaders.

Love Field Master Plan

Tonight I attended the first Love Field Master Plan meeting held in over a year. The purpose was to bring participants up to date on the implementation of the Plan.

The Master Plan was developed by the City of Dallas, area residents, aviation experts, and Love Field tenants to guide the future development of Dallas Love Field Airport while minimizing its impact on surrounding neighborhoods. The Master Plan was adopted by the Dallas City Council in 2001.

Representatives from American Airlines and Southwest Airlines attended the Master Plan meeting and debated their differing positions regarding the future of the Wright Amendment.

No matter the final disposition of the Wright Amendment, I will work to ensure that the impact of Love Field on surrounding neighborhoods is minimized.