Posts Tagged ‘noise’

NEPA and NextGen: Airports can bridge the gap between industry and the public

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Discussion of NextGen and NEPA issues was a hot topic at the U.C. Davis Noise and Air Quality Symposium earlier this month – not only in “formal” sessions and presentations, but informally over dinners, cocktails, and networking sessions.  Jason Schwartz of the Port of Portland presented a great graphic which summarizes the central role of airports in this discussion:

Courtesy of Jason Schwartz, Port of Portland

Of critical importance – and a potential significant benefit from the perspective of FAA officials tasked with rolling out performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures as quickly as possible – will be the role airports can play in outreach.  I believe this will be the key to maximizing understanding and minimizing controversy (and thus avoiding costly and lengthy environmental processes).

As shown in Jason’s slide, airports are uniquely positioned to understand the technical issues and urgency of industry to implement the procedures as well as the concerns of the community and elected officials to preserve their quality of life.   Airports can bridge this gap by engaging both sides in a constructive discussion and evaluation of environmental impacts (and benefits!) resulting from implementation of PBN.  We have been involved in such discussions at Denver International Airport, which FAA hopes to use as a model for collaborative engagement for its integrated National Airspace and Procedures Plan (otherwise known as the “Metroplex Project”).

The FAA is taking a major step to loosen key bottlenecks in metroplexes, the busy metropolitan areas where multiple airports and competing airspace lead to less-than-efficient operations.  The FAA intends to design integrated airspace and new procedures to de-conflict arrivals and departures in an initiative that will reach 21 such areas by 2016.

Source: FAA 2010

The goal of the Metroplex Project is to implement more efficient operations in metroplex areas. Study teams with representatives of the FAA and the aviation community will provide an expeditious but comprehensive front-end strategic look at each metroplex.  They will analyze operational challenges, assess current and planned airspace and procedures efforts, and explore new opportunities for solutions that are tailored individually to each metroplex. Once a study team has come up with the right changes for its metroplex, a design and implementation team will develop the changes and put them in place.  The first two metroplex areas – North Texas and Washington D.C. – have been identified as prototypes for early analysis.  The FAA has completed the initial concept studies for each and soon will be entering the design phase similar to the recent effort at Denver.  The next five metroplexes identified for study are: Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, N.C., Northern California, and Southern California.

For a great summary on NextGen Implementation, read this report from FAA.

HMMH will be assisting the FAA to prepare NEPA documents for the upcoming metroplex studies.  I look forward to working with airports – the local experts – to identify important community and local government representatives and strategies for outreach.

As Chad Leqve of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport pointed out on several occasions during the symposium, the rollout of PBN procedures presents a rare opportunity to achieve meaningful noise reduction over noise-sensitive communities.  We should not squander that opportunity.

Environmental Smackdown – Aviation v. High Speed Rail

Monday, February 14th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m inspired by a few recent events to pontificate on this subject; those events are:  (1) Joe Biden’s recent remarks on high speed rail (HSR) in the US, (2) Greg Principato’s response, and (3) a recent session at the TRB Annual Meeting: “Environmental Tradeoffs of Aviation and High Speed Rail”.

First, let me be clear:  I do not think that one mode of transportation is “better” than another.  In fact, I’m quite sure that we have a need for both and our focus should be on complementarity, not competition.  That said, high speed rail advocates in the U.S. are making statements that unequivocally claim that high speed rail is “better for the environment”.  But let’s check the facts, as far as I’ve gathered them (admittedly, a somewhat cursory review):

  • Capacity:  Matt Coogan and others have prepared a comprehensive case study of the impact of high speed rail on aviation capacity in ACRP 31:  Innovative Approaches to Addressing Aviation Capacity Issues in Coastal Mega-regions.  They conclude that while introduction of Acela Amtrak service between Boston and New York has reduced passenger traffic by about 1/3, the number of flights between the two cities has dropped by only about six percent – shuttle operators have just adapted by substituting smaller aircraft on those routes to meet the schedule demand.
  • Noise:  Noise assessments for aviation and high speed rail both rely on Day Night Average Sound Level, but the similarities end there.  The FRA’s HSR Guidance Manual determines impact on noise sensitive communities by comparing project levels to existing noise levels to determine two categories of impact (moderate and severe), while the FAA’s Order 1050.1E determines impact by identifying noise-sensitive land uses that are projected to experience an increase in noise of 1.5 dB or more in those areas already exceeding DNL 65.  To make matters even more complicated, people appear to respond differently to aircraft noise than rail noise (they are more annoyed by it); on the other hand, if the rail vehicle in question is moving fast enough to cause startle (i.e., HSR), it’s not clear whether annoyance reaction is more like aircraft than rail.  Ruth Mazer and I gave a presentation at TRB comparing aviation and HSR in the Boston-New York Acela corridor, using both the FRA methodology and the FAA’s Integrated Noise Model.  We estimated that the number of people exposed to Sound Exposure Levels (SELs) from aircraft flying BOS-NYC high enough to cause speech disturbance (85 dB) ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 (depending on runway, flight path, aircraft type, and airport); whereas the number of people exposed to the same level on the BOS-NYC route is 12,000.  On the other hand, there are close to 30 shuttle flights per day in each direction and only 10 trainsets.  Is it better to expose the same 1,000 people to excessive noise 60 times per day or twelve times as many people only 20 times per day? 
Source: EU Position Paper On Dose Response Relationships Between Transportation Noise And Annoyance, 2002

Source: EU Position Paper On Dose Response Relationships Between Transportation Noise And Annoyance, 2002: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/noise/pdf/noise_expert_network.pdf

  • Air Quality:  Mikhail Chester from UC Berkeley also gave a presentation at TRB entitled, “Life-Cycle Assessment of High Speed Rail:  Total Environmental Accounting”, in which he compared the total air quality outputs from automobiles, aviation, and HSR.  LCA includes not just the operation and maintenance of the vehicles, but the infrastructure development and energy production.  Two interesting figures are presented below, which demonstrate that although emissions per passenger kilometer traveled (PKT) is highly dependent on vehicle loading, HSR consistently produces less CO2 than aviation only when it is assumed that the HSR uses “clean” fuel, and is not a clear “winner” over aviation when comparing NOx.  More detail on Mikhail’s research is here.
Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

Lifecycle NOx Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

 

Lifecycle NOx Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

I look forward to your responses, and to seeing some real data – especially noise – on this subject.

HMMH Exhibits Wind Energy Services at Community Wind Conference

Monday, December 20th, 2010

By Steve Barrett

HMMH attended the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Community and Small Wind Conference in Portland Oregon during the second week of December.  This was our first time on the road in the “Energy and Climate” arena with our new booth which communicates HMMH’s expanding skill set including renewable energy support services.  While the annual AWEA conference, held each year in late spring, now attracts up to 25,000 attendees and has over 1,000 exhibitors, the Community Wind Conference offers a more intimate venue to meet with the wind industry’s community and residential segment.  Small wind is generally characterized by wind turbines that are under 100 kW; many exhibited at the conference were in the 5-20 kW range suitable for homes, farms, and small industry.  Community wind has a less precise definition but is typically characterized by wind projects owned by landowners with the model being Midwest farmers constructing multiple utility-scale (i.e., 400 foot tall) wind turbines and generating alternative sources of income.  Particularly in more densely developed areas like New England and coastal areas, interest in community wind projects are increasing because projects with fewer wind turbines fit more appropriately into the landscape and the benefits of the wind energy can be provided locally.  Several projects that HMMH has recently worked on in Massachusetts – Falmouth, Cohasset, and West Gloucester – all fit this model.  And because these projects are often located close to residences, they require sound studies to assess potential noise exposure from a proposed wind turbine on neighbors, which is one of HMMH’s developing areas of specialty.  While Portland was seasonally cool and rainy during our visit, the conference provided us with an opportunity to meet people working on small and community wind projects throughout the country and we hope to expand our work in this sector capitalizing on our success in the Northeast.

ANMS Conference Debrief

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

by Mike Carr

Eugene Reindel and I recently attended the 10th Annual Airport Noise Mitigation Symposium (ANMS), hosted by San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California. ANMS is the only U.S. conference pertaining directly to the issues relating to airport noise mitigation. The theme this year played off of the San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge; Building a Bridge to Compatibility.

This year’s conference was a great success and enjoyed by all (from what I heard). This is in no small part due to the great job of the Symposium’s planning committee which was co-chaired by Michael McCarron of San Francisco International Airport, and Carla Kell-Smith of C. Kell-Smith & Associates, Inc. The agenda had a great mix of presentation styles and topics from across the industry.  Mix that with a humorous, facetious, yet educational keynote address on the history of Sound Insulation from Carl Rosenberg of Acentech, a Napa/Sonoma Valley wine tour, and golf tourney overlooking the bay and you might just have a hit.

As for the actual session, topics ranged from FAA roundtable discussions, airport land acquisition, adding a green/sustainable focus to your program, and my personal favorite… Sound Insulation and Testing (although I’m biased). One topic of particular interest, which kept sneaking into sessions and conversations, was the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) update to the Guidelines for Sound Insulation of Residences Exposed to Aircraft Operations (Guidelines).

A session directly discussing the ACRP Update to the Guidelines document was presented by Michael Payne of The Jones Payne Group. Michael Payne, who is the Principal Investigator for the Update, offered the following perspective on the purpose and need for the Update:

While there is much useful information in the two previous versions, much of it needs to be updated to reflect current costs, codes and “Best Practices”.

The Approach for the update plans to:

Build upon the two previous versions by maintaining that which is useful and relevant while updating and expanding the Guidelines in key areas such as:

  • Energy performance and sustainability
  • Community Outreach
  • Improvements in Products
  • Current Code and other Regulatory Requirements
  • Bidding methodologies and project costs

Michael’s presentation sparked a decent amount of discussion among attendees; I look forward to seeing the updated Guidelines as they are issued. The final submittal is expected in Fall/Winter 2011, so look for it sometime after.

On a side note, special congratulations are also in order for Michael Payne, as he was this year’s recipient of the Randy Jones Award for Excellence in Airport Noise Mitigation.

HMMH has had the opportunity to be involved in the ANMS since nearly the beginning, providing sponsorship, chairing or moderating sessions, presenting paper, and participating as members of the planning committee. This was my first year of involvement, both in attending the conference and participating on the planning committee.  I’m looking forward to participating and seeing all of your shining faces at the 11th annual ANMS in the ‘Lou (NO NOT THE LOO! St Louis!). 

Railroad Environmental Conference

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

by Lance Meister

I attended the Railroad Environmental Conferenceat the University of Illinois last week.  The conference is a good one, but quite focused on the freight rail industry.  Chris Barkan and Kim Hagemann do an excellent job of planning the conference every year.  The presentations are more technical than at many conferences, and there’s a good mix of people from across the industry.  In addition to the University of Illinois Railroad Engineering program, the conference is also sponsored by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Railway Engineering & Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA).

The conference attendance is comprised of freight railroad environmental staff, consultants in the field and academics.  The focus of the conference has shifted somewhat over the years, from one focused on hazardous waste and remediation to air quality, greenhouse gases and sustainability.

Freight railroads (along with transit) have been promoting their “green” side, focusing on removing cars and trucks from the roads, and the inherent advantages in rail transportation of bulk commodities.  If you have time, here’s an interesting report discussing freight vs. trucks in significant detail.  The railroads are also being required to introduce locomotives that reduce diesel emissions.

While noise and vibration are not central issues to the freight railroads, HMMH has participated in this conference for a number of years, presenting papers, chairing sessions, or participating on the planning committee.  Last year I took over for Carl Hanson of HMMH on the planning committee and chaired the noise and vibration session.  This year I presented a paper on noise and vibration considerations in shared use corridors. The presentation deals with the noise and vibration issues that arise on corridors where freight and transit either share the tracks or the right-of-way.  Planners are looking at freight corridors more and more as potential locations for transit projects, so this topic is becoming more of an issue.  HMMH has worked on a number of these projects around the country and experienced many of the challenging problems that can arise on these types of projects.

The conference will be held again next fall in Champaign.  If you are interested in participating, keep watching the site.  The call for papers usually goes out in March/April, and the hotels always fill up fast!  The conference organizers are hoping to get more involvement from passenger railroads and consultants in that field, so if you think you have something of interest (not just in noise, but any environmental topic) you should consider submitting a paper.