Expansion of Briscoe Field to accommodate larger, commercial aircraft has mobilized those living in and around Lawrenceville. Reaction has been swift to the county's examination of the opportunity to privatize the general aviation airport and allow it to add runway length in order to serve commercial aircraft.
The polarization of the populace has been predictable. Those living near the airport or potentially living below a flight path are against. Those who live farther out from Lawrenceville are not worried about being disturbed by takeoffs and landings and are intrigued by the possibility of being able to fly without having to traverse metro Atlanta to Hartsfield-Jackson.
Gwinnett County has emphasized that officials are taking a very preliminary look at what options might be out there. In a press release last week, the county said foreseeable potential outcomes of this initiative include:
* Remain "as is"-- a county-operated general aviation airport
* Privatization as a general aviation airport
* Privatization of airport with the addition of commercial passenger service.
Both the airport expansionists and the anti-expansionists have put a lot of information out there. Most of this is un-sourced and stated as known fact. Yet, because there are so many unknowns, it's misleading to treat these items as accurate. At best, these are estimations, predictions and guesswork.
To illustrate, I've received comments from several residents telling me they "live directly in the flight path." It seems everyone I've talked with "lives directly in the flight path." Everyone can't live in the flight path, can they? I have not seen any "post-expansion" flight paths, so I can't say.
Here are some more issues and the "facts" as interpreted by both sides of the debate. The following descriptions have been lifted from fliers, newsletters, e-mail, websites and word of mouth. It's amazing how differently situations can be interpreted.
On the noise
ANTI-EXPANSION: The flight paths and holding patterns for passenger jet craft will affect most towns in Gwinnett, including Lawrenceville, Dacula, Loganville, Suwanee, Duluth, Norcross, Buford, Snellville, and Grayson. The holding patterns will be at low altitudes to accommodate jets approaching Hartsfield and noise from jet engines will be significant in all these areas.
PRO-EXPANSION: Although it is unclear at this time what aircraft will utilize the airport, it should be noted that today's airliner aircrafts are quieter than many of the general aviation business aircraft that currently use and have used the airport for the last 30 years.
On the traffic
ANTI-EXPANSION: The proposed passenger gate terminals could process 120 to 160 flights per day -- 5 to 7 flights per hour, 24 hours a day. Maximum passenger capacity could reach 15,750,000 annually.
PRO-EXPANSION: It is envisioned that Gwinnett County Airport would handle approximately four commercial flights per hour -- maximum 96 flights per day.
On the economic impact
ANTI-EXPANSION: No economic study has been performed ... the jobs and economic forecast ... is pure speculation.
PRO-EXPANSION: It is estimated that once the airport is complete and operational it will account for approximately $1.25 billion in annual economic impact.
On job creation
ANTI-EXPANSION: Since airlines are union shops, the jobs created will be filled from union members currently working at Hartsfield-Jackson and only 300 permanent jobs will be created.
PRO-EXPANSION: The redevelopment will generate new jobs immediately through construction and other services. Over the course of the next 10 years ... (it is estimated) a total of 20,000 (direct and indirect) jobs will be generated in the immediate area as a result of the Briscoe Field airport revitalization.
So what's a reasonable thinker to do? It's difficult for those who want to base their airport decision on solid information. There's just too much spin going on.
But good people will scrutinize the information, diagnose the data, consider the sources and be comfortable with their decision on whether to support or protest Briscoe's expansion.
For our part, the Post will make every attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and provide our readers the news they need to make that informed decision.
J.K. Murphy is the publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.