FAA, airport spending $15 million to soundproof 650 homes

Posted: Monday, January 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport will spend $15 million over the next decade to insulate homes rattled by airplane noise.

The airport will hire contractors to put in sound-blocking windows and doors and insulate attics and walls in homes near the airport. The program will start this fall on 30 homes, with 50 or more homes insulated annually in each following year.

The soundproofing will cost $30,000 to $50,000 per house. The improvements will cost homeowners nothing.

The Federal Aviation Administration will pay 94 percent of the cost, and the state-owned airport will pay the rest from airline fees, said Theresa Maser, airport noise program director.

The ''quieter home'' program is one of several initiatives by the airport to deal with noise. The airport also intends to buy some vacant residential land near the airport and is promoting special building standards for neighborhoods affected by airport sounds.

Housing eligible for the program is within an area with an average outdoor sound level of 65 decibels or higher.

The improvement zone was established using a formula that computes average sound levels day and night, taking into account the intensity and number of noisy events and their timing. Night sounds count more because noise is more intrusive then.

Sixty-five decibels is louder than a vacuum cleaner 10 feet away but about as loud as a person talking three feet away or as an aircraft flying overhead.

The airport estimates about 250 commercial aircraft land here each day. Their takeoff and landing paths vary depending on the wind. But the preferred route -- and the least noisy for residents -- is for planes to land west to east and take off to the north. Most flights do that, Maser said.

When they don't, people notice.

In Spenard, Peggy Auth lives near the end of the east-west runway, near the Lake Hood floatplane base. Her house is just outside the home improvement line, but the floatplanes returning to Lake Hood on summer afternoons make so much noise they block out phone conversations, she said. The same thing happens when international airport takeoffs switch out of the normal pattern, Auth said.

''When they're doing east takeoffs, they rattle panes of glass and things hanging on the walls,'' she said. ''Window noise is one of the worst. It's loud, and then it's unnerving. Sometimes you're not sure if it's an earthquake.''

Auth's neighborhood doesn't qualify for the home improvement zone because it doesn't measure noisy enough year-round, even though it's especially noisy in summers, Maser said.

But the airport will make some exceptions.

''We'll do what we can,'' she said.

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