Denver Metroplex plan will take effect in late March
A controversial plan to change flight paths in and out of Denver International Airport — prompting howls of protest from communities throughout the metro area — has received final approval from federal aviation regulators, it was announced Friday.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a finding of no significant impact in its record of decision for the Denver Metroplex Project. It plans to put the plan into effect on March 26.
“The decision enables the agency to move forward with the project, which will use cutting-edge satellite navigation to move air traffic more safely and efficiently through the area,” the FAA said in a news release Friday. “Satellite-based routes will allow for more direct and efficient routing of aircraft into and out of Denver and surrounding airports, enhancing aviation safety and efficiency, and potentially reducing flight delays.”
Those new proposed flight paths have been under attack for months by various communities around Denver, who fear it will funnel more air traffic over their homes.
Residents of Gilpin County have protested that a planned shift of westbound air traffic to the south — away from Boulder and toward Gilpin County — will disturb their quiet and threaten historic sites in the small, mountainous county.
Many living in Denver’s southern suburbs are worried about the project exacerbating noise impacts from air traffic moving in and out of Centennial Airport. The airport threatened to take legal action against the FAA over Metroplex, as has been done in other parts of the country.
Late Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Centennial Airport said officials from the airport intend to file a lawsuit against the plan.
Donna Okray Parman, a member of Gilpin Residents Refuse increased flight traffic (GRRift), said Friday that her group “will not stop fighting this effort by the federal government to destroy the peaceful mountain respite for Colorado residents.”
“This is a disastrous plan for Colorado,” she said. “I sincerely hope that the people of Colorado rise up against this FAA plan, and have their communities file petitions to stop it. If we don’t protect our state, who will?”
The FAA in its Friday press release said prior to making its decision, it “conducted thorough environmental reviews, including 24 public workshops and approximately 78 stakeholder briefings in the Denver metro area.”
“The agency also held two public comment periods totaling 75 days and evaluated and responded to more than 975 comments,” the release said.
But residents of Gilpin County said they never got a meeting with the FAA, despite letters from the offices of U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to the FAA imploring the agency to schedule one.
The FAA said its environmental review for Metroplex concluded that “some people will experience slight noise decreases, some will see no changes, and some will experience small noise increases.”
“Additionally, some people might see aircraft where they did not previously fly after the Denver Metroplex procedures are implemented,” the release stated.
Data produced by officials at Centennial Airport showed that Metroplex plans implemented in other cities across the country resulted in higher levels of noise complaints. At the Baltimore-Washington airport, pre-Metroplex noise complaints went from 2,409 in 2015 to 17,223 two years later.
And in Los Angeles, complaints registered at just over 8,000 in 2014, but after Metroplex was adopted, soared to nearly 275,000 in 2018, according to the Centennial Airport’s research, which was shared with the FAA in a letter sent to the agency last year.
The FAA projects that the streamlined flight paths under Metroplex, which promise smoother descents than the traditional stair-step approach pilots take today, will save more than half a million gallons of fuel annually at a cost savings of $1.8 million.