Commission Stalls on Longer Runway

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By: 
Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–Lengthening the main runway at the Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field garnered only a tie vote at last week’s Airport Commission meeting.

Mayor Gurdip Brar, an ex officio member of the commission, along with Alders Robert Burck and Luke Fuszard voted for the “no-build” option while chair John Hallick, 

David Lorman and Kevin Munson voted for a 440-foot extension to the 4,000-foot runway. Michelle Bond, a citizen member, abstained.

Before passing their recommendations on to the Common Council, the Commission considered the final chapter (Design Alternatives) of the draft Airport Master Plan, a two-year-long process that has brought the airport’s problems and potential to the forefront of public debate.

Making a rare appearance at the commission, Brar said the airport was safely operating now and 93 percent of users polled were satisfied with the current runway length.

“We don’t need bigger planes here. Only a small percent of the people who live and work in the city have hangers…There’s no need to increase runway length. There’s no safety issues, no issues, period,” he said.

An initial runway option was 5,500 feet, said Munson, who lives in Middleton Hills.

“I don’t want jets overhead at 5 a.m., and the original intent of the alternatives was to allow bigger planes,” he said.

However, Munson justified his vote saying that “everyone uses the airport,” as it’s used by UPS and serves as a reliever airport for Dane County Regional Airport.

Lorman, a pilot and flight instructor, said “you can never have enough runway,” and the extension under consideration “won’t affect the volume of traffic,” at Morey Field.

Bond offered no explanation for her abstention.

The Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee (AMPAC) last month also narrowly favored the no-build option in a 6-5 vote.

By a 5-2 vote, the commission did recommend paving the increasing the length of the grass North-South runway to 3,280 feet. Hallick said it may result in more planes taking off to the north and avoiding more densely populated neighborhoods in the Town of Middleton to the west.

“Almost all smaller aircraft could use it, it consolidates traffic patterns and might provide a second runway if one runway is closed for maintenance,” he said.

Brar supported the no-build option saying it provides a grass runway that “tail draggers” prefer and a 3,200 foot runway may require rerouting part of Schneider Road, which raised practicality questions.

Fuszard also voted for a no-build option.

The problem with the status quo, said Burck, is that it leaves part of the Runway Protection Zone (RPZ) on the south side of Airport Road where a property owner has asked the city to do something to remove that part of the RPZ from his property.

Burck added that RPZs at many airports aren’t totally within airport property, but he’d prefer moving the North-South or Crosswind Runway north so the RPZ was totally on airport property. Property would need to be acquired to do so and Burck said that finding willing sellers may take years.

Burck agreed that a longer North-South Runway would lessen takeoffs to the west.

“If more traffic could be diverted to the North-South (Runway) it should help with the noise concerns we hear about every month at commission meetings,” as more developed areas won’t be predominately flown over.

AMPAC favored the alternative that shortens the grass runway to 1,000 feet in order to keep the RPZ on the airport, which was criticized as making the runway unusable to all but a few of the approximately 100 planes hangered at the airport.

Adding more hangers on buildable soil, likely on the east side, was favored by a 5-2 vote, with Brar and Fuszard voting against.

The commission also recommended keeping the left hand traffic pattern for takeoffs from the main runway, rejecting a right hand pattern which would have routed more planes over less densely populated areas to the north.

A community survey of attitudes toward airport expansion is to be conducted before the Middleton Common Council considers adopting the Airport Master Plan.

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