Soon, cars may not be the only vehicles flying down the Route 17 corridor in Bergen County.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday afternoon that it would begin testing a new flight path to Teterboro Airport that will divert aircraft that usually fly over Hackensack to a route a few miles west that follows the heavily traveled state highway.
The FAA said the test, which will begin April 4 and last no more than six months, would “provide noise relief for the Hackensack University Medical Center area.”
That came as news to hospital officials, who said that the hospital has never made any complaints about noise to the FAA.
“Nobody here is aware of a complaint,” said Sheri Hensley, a hospital spokeswoman.
And that has created a bit of a mystery as to the source of the complaint.
Neither the FAA nor the Port Authority, which owns Teterboro Airport, could say who made the initial noise complaint that led the FAA to make the change. A spokeswoman for the Port Authority, Cheryl Albiez, referred questions about the origins of the flight path change to the FAA, whose spokeswoman, Arlene Salac, said that the request came from the Teterboro Aircraft Noise Abatement Advisory Committee.
Both the FAA and the Port Authority have representatives on that committee, but they declined to make their officials available for comment. Other committee members, drawn from elected officials in towns surrounding the airport, including Moonachie, Little Ferry and Hasbrouck Heights, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The chairman of the committee, Fred Dressel, a former mayor of Moonachie, did not respond to a phone call to his home. His son said Dressel would not be available until next week.
Corinne Wehrle, chairwoman of the group’s noise complaints committee, stepped down from her post recently, according to news reports, because she was relocating from Little Ferry. Wehrle told The Record last November that her group was trying to divert flights away from the Hackensack hospital to an “industrial area,” but she did not say why the group was intent on doing so.
Nevertheless, the proposed change to the Teterboro flight path could have a real public health impact, said Robert Belzer, president of the New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise. Belzer said that because the current flight path covers a densely populated area, the test will probably produce a “net benefit” to residents of the area, but “somebody else will be impacted.”
“I think it needs to be analyzed carefully and reviewed by the communities that will benefit from it and by ones that will be impacted by it,” Belzer said.
The test, in conjunction with an environmental review, will be used to decide if the new route will be made permanent.
Although the FAA declined to discuss further details about the proposed route change, an agency presentation published last July showed that planes traveling south from Ramapo, N.Y., will be directed over Mahwah and will then follow the Route 17 corridor south to Teterboro, coming in to land slightly west of the Hackensack hospital.
Teterboro has an aircraft weight limit of 100,000 pounds and is used by private aircraft — mostly corporate jets — rather than commercial airliners.
Teterboro, designated as a reliever airport, focuses on handling smaller aircraft that would contribute to congestion at commercial airports operated by the Port Authority, such as Newark Liberty International.
The noise abatement committee received about 1,200 complaints regarding Teterboro in the first six months of last year alone, according to a report published by the committee. But the number of complainants was fewer than 100.
The majority of those complaints came from two towns. Twenty-four people in Paramus lodged 741 complaints and five residents from Maywood lodged 219 complaints in that period. In Hackensack, 16 people lodged 27 complaints.
Last summer, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $2.3 million grant for a noise study at Teterboro Airport. The study is to be completed next year.
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