By John Lynds
Imagine your neighbor decides to do some work on their house. They want to build an addition, go up three stories to add more rental units, change their heating system, put in a pool, build a new driveway and add five more parking spaces.
Don’t you think that you as a neighbor and your other neighbors would deserve an opportunity to weigh in on this?
However, what if the building department decided that each of these jobs individually wasn’t that big a deal and didn’t amount to much and so they just gave them the permits, and didn’t require your neighbor to take his project to the Zoning Board of Appeals so they just started the work? You wouldn’t have any way to put the brakes on the work.
That’s what’s happening at Logan Airport
Massport last week announced a ‘communication plan’ to inform passengers, employees and tenants about an upcoming series of construction projects at Logan Airport.
“The projects will have major impacts to the traveling public, including roadway detours starting this fall, and will all be completed within the next five years,” wrote Massport in a press release.
Massport is preparing New England’s gateway airport for a growing number of passengers driven by the robust economy and industry trends. Massport is branding this campaign “Logan Forward,” complete with a new website and a text-alert program coming later this fall to keep the public informed as we make important investments to improve the customer experience at Logan. In addition, Massport is training airport staff, and will use radio, print and digital advertising to get the word out to our passengers. There will also be signage throughout the airport terminals and along the roadways. Logan served 40.9 million passengers in 2018, and has nearly 20,000 full and part-time employees.
Massport’s $2 billion capital plan includes Terminal B to C roadway improvements; a new Terminal B-C post-security connection; and new gates and a 2,000-space parking garage at Terminal E.
“‘Logan Forward’ is our commitment to improve the passenger experience and we pledge to keep the public informed every step of the way throughout the construction process so they can appropriately plan ahead,” said incoming Massport CEO Lisa Wieland. “This will be a long process and communication with our passengers will be key.”
However, local environmentalists are seeing “Logan Forward” as catchy name that has been thought up by Massport officials to spin a massive airport expansion strategy that has never been exposed to the light of day.
The Massachusetts General Law, chapter 30, section 61 establishes the state’s authority to regulate environmental impacts of airport projects through the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review conducted by the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA).
Since negative environmental impacts like air pollution, traffic congestion and airport noise accumulate incrementally, this law specifically requires the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) to consider projects in their entirety. But this system of procedural checks and balances only works if the state wants it to work. And despite the fact that the sum of the recent, current, and upcoming projects at Logan amounts to a multi-billion dollar expansion project over a 15-year ramp-up, MEPA has refused to consider this for what it is–a Mega Logan Expansion Project.
“This unregulated Mega Expansion has been going for 10 years already -starting around 2009 with the Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC), and will apparently go for another five years, according to Massport,” said AIR, Inc. in a statement. “Over this same 10-year period, Logan’s passenger volumes have shot up 64 percent. In this same time period, flights have increased by 23 percent, nighttime flights are off the charts, traffic congestion in the Sumner Tunnel is up 65 percent, and VOC, nitrous oxides, and particulate air pollution have risen with flight, as much as 24 percent. And there’s apparently no end in sight.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), toxic air is now the biggest environmental risk of early death, responsible for one in nine of all fatalities, killing 7 million people a year–more than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
“The WHO considers air pollution a global public health emergency,” said AIR, Inc. “But it’s no big deal in Boston.”
AIR, Inc. has now sent two email requests over the past two months to MEPA, the state regulators at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), requesting to meet with Kathleen Theoharides, the incoming Secretary of EOEA appointed by Gov. Baker in April and haven’t received a reply.
“AIR, Inc. has not been consulted by Massport about Logan Forward,” read AIR, Inc.’s statement. “But we’d advise our neighbors that this is just a plan for the next five years. When they’re done with the Terminal B to C roadway improvements, a new Terminal B-C post-security connection, new gates and a 2,000-space parking garage at Terminal E, and a slew of other airport expansion projects in five years, that’ll bring airport from the 44 million passenger estimated 2019 level, up to about 65 million at current growth rates, they’ll find another five years worth of work to do, to bring us to 80 million.”
AIR, Inc. believes this will mean endless increases in traffic, noise and pollution for Eastie residents.
A new website, www.LoganForward.com, has been set up to provide more information about each of these projects, as well as construction timelines and updates. A new text alert program is also in the works and will be available later this fall. Passengers, employees and tenants will be able to get up-to-date messages about road detours and traffic impacts.
John Lynds is the editorial reporter for the East Boston Times.