Federal lawmakers weigh into BWI noise dispute

The Democratic members of Maryland's congressional delegation are weighing into a dispute between the neighbors of BWI and the Federal Aviation Administration, encouraging the agency to act swiftly to alter flight patterns that are causing "unacceptable and unsustainable" noise.

Residents in Anne Arundel and Howard counties have said new flight routes created in 2015 as part of the implementation of a modernized air traffic control system have created intolerable noise for homes near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. The FAA requested neighbors create a working group to gather community input.

That group met on March 21 and approved a unanimous resolution calling on the FAA to revert to the prior flight paths. In a letter made public on Wednesday and addressed to FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta, Maryland's federal lawmakers are lending their support to that resolution -- and calling for action.

"These residents cannot work or study at home, converse in a normal tone of voice, sleep well, or simply have the quiet enjoyment of their property," the lawmakers wrote. "It is essential to provide relief to the affected residents until an acceptable solution can be devised."

The new flight paths were caused by a $35 billion nationwide air traffic overhaul called NextGen, intended to modernize routes, save the airlines billions of dollars in fuel and reduce carbon emissions. The FAA estimates the plan will save $160 billion in fuel and other costs through 2030.

But the new patterns have triggered protest and litigation across the country, as homeowners who purchased property with what they believed was an understanding of the potential for airport noise are confronted with new flight patterns and lower aircraft.

The Howard County Council approved a measure earlier this year authorizing its law office to file a lawsuit against the FAA over the flight pattern issue.

The delegation letter, dated Tuesday, was signed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin as well as Reps. Johns Sarbanes, Elijah Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Steny Hoyer, John Delaney, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin.

"Now that the roundtable has acted, we call upon you to accept the roundtable's resolution and take swift action to revert to pre-NextGen flight paths," the lawmakers wrote.

An FAA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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