After being pressed on the matter by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last week that it will extend the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the South-Central Florida Metroplex NextGen Project.
Wilson hosted a conference call with several representatives from the agency, Miami International Airport, and local government officials on the matter last week. The FAA extended the comment period through July 24.
According to the FAA, the project includes upgraded, modernizing flight procedures that include new and more predictable flight paths, which it claims will improve the safety and efficiency of air and ground operations at local airports. It also would require airplanes to fly over specific, synchronized GPS points that will result in seven different flight paths directly above a concentrated area in the North Biscayne corridor neighborhoods in Wilson’s district, which already must contend with noise pollution created by railroad traffic.
“In recent weeks, my office has received many constituent complaints about distressingly high levels of flight traffic and an increase in pollution and soot on their properties from low flying planes, which constituents believe is tied to the FAA’s proposed plan. They are deeply concerned that it not only threatens their quality of life, but also will diminish the property values of thousands of homes in Miami-Dade County’s northeast corridor,” said Wilson, who sits on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on Wednesday. “Members of my staff have met with representatives of several homeowner associations who echoed these grave concerns.”
Wilson pushed for an extension of the public comment period, which was set to expire on July 10, because she believes that many residents have been too preoccupied by the COVID-19 pandemic and in part because they were not adequately informed or were unaware of the looming deadline. While some constituents attended the FAA’s virtual public workshop meetings, the platform did not allow participants to ask follow-up questions that would have enabled them to fully flesh out their concerns.
“While I am pleased that the FAA has extended the comment period, I was extremely frustrated during the call by a feeling that the proposed flight path plan is a fait accompli that cannot be changed and my constituents’ concerns will fall on deaf ears,” Wilson said.
“That frustration is exacerbated by constituents’ belief that other more affluent communities were able to successfully lobby for modifications before their environmental assessment phase,” the congresswoman’s office insisted.
“They fear that this is yet another example of the disparate treatment of the haves and have-nots in American culture, which is unacceptable. For generations, minority and low-income communities have been plagued by environmental injustice in various forms, including contaminated water and noise and air pollution,” Wilson said.
“I hope to once again successfully lobby for a solution that will encourage the FAA to provide some relief to my constituents and strongly urge them to take advantage of this opportunity to make their voices heard,” she said in conclusion.