If Kim Makres’s tidy beige ranch house were any closer to Tweed New Haven Airport, it would almost be on the runway.
Close as it is, it picks up 97 percent less noise than it used too from the planes landing and taking off perhaps 75 yards away. As for the cars racing by on Burr Street to catch those planes, she doesn’t hear a single engine revolution or the slap of a tire.
That’s because her house, at the corner of Burr and Dean Streets in Morris Cove and adjacent to the airport, is one of 34 homes recently insulated as part of the airport’s “Good Neighbor” program.
At a Monday afternoon press conference convened at Makres’s home, Makres and city and airport authority officials celebrated her combination of all new windows, storm doors, new central air, and a fresh air system. Combined with copious amounts of blown-in insulation, the insulation, she said, has now made her and her husband Tim blissfully unaware of the takeoff of the 6 a.m. American flight to Philadelphia.
“The noise, the fumes, you know it [that it will be there] when you buy, but you don’t know how loud and how low the planes fly until you move in,” said Makres, who herself flies a lot, out of Tweed, for her job with a company that relocates people all over the world.
Makres said she is eager for the airport to add more carriers and more destinations; Florida tops her list.
That was music to the ears of Tweed Executive Director Tim Larson’s ears.
The insulation work is funded 90 percent by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the state pitching in 7.5 percent and the city 2.5 percent. Insulation work and materials combined cost between $35,000 and $45,000 at each of the ten houses in the initial pilot and then 12 in the official phase one, according to Brackston Poitier, the project coordinator at Hamden-based Tri-Con, a minority and veteran-owned company that has been the general supervising contractor.
Makres and her husband, who is a construction guy, praised the quality of the work, which was done in two days shortly after Memorial Day. It consisted of replacing her single and double pane windows with powerful triple-pane windows, and adding blown in insulation to reduce noise to federally approved levels.
The central air conditioning replacing the window air conditioners — as well as a fresh air system — were added because the blown-in insulation and now tight windows in a sense vacuum-seal the house, explained Larson.
The pilot project began three years ago, with several public meetings, to enlist local homeowners closest to the airport as participants.
Larson explained that homes like Makreses’ and those, from a decibel perspective, even closer to the airport on Burr Street at Ley and Girard, qualified if they were within areas on a contour map showing noise penetration from the runway out to 65 decibels.
If you are sound-wise hardest hit, with 70 decibels, you qualify for either for the insulation program or for the airport to buy your home. If you are in the next countour ring, receiving 65 decibels of noise, as was the Makres house, you are eligible for the insulation program, which is free to the homeowner
In total 184 homes are eligible, with eight within the 70 decibel area, said Larson. The news announced at the Monday presser is that the FAA has awarded Tweed an additional $2.9 million to insulate 50 more of the 184 qualifying homes, where work will begin this spring, said Poitier.
Mayor Toni Harp said it is significant that the FAA is investing in New Haven, as she is all for the airport adding new carriers and new routes.
“We’re meeting some of the concerns neighbors have about noise. To the degree we can take care of that, that support will be there” when the airport expands service, she said.
Makres said she can’t wait to fly to some place other than Philadelphia. The mayor said she has her eye on Chicago.
Long the subject of contentious debate in both New Haven and East Haven, expanding the runway from its current 5,600 square feet to about 6,000, the requirement to attract more commercial jets, is very much in the near future, said Larson.
Florida, Washington, D.C., and Chicago are the top three destinations on Larson’s list, comprising service that “will support New Haven’s economy,” Larson claimed. He estimated that if approvals are forthcoming, expanding what have been termed the safety zones at both ends of the runway, to make the required additional length, could be in the works within two years.
Larson praised Harp for urging him to launch the home insulation program and attending to the concerns of neighbors. The houses participating in the pilot and first phase have been spread equally between New Haven and East Haven.
Larson predicted more homes in the eligible 184 beyond the next 50 slated for work will be able to participate, if more federal funding is available and if the owners—in some cases absentee landlords—learn of the program’s availability.