May 11, 2018

Despite setback, biz leaders will continue fight for Tweed plan

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
American Eagle is currently the only commercial jet service operating out of Tweed-New Haven Airport.

Legislation to expand the runway at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport may have died with the close of the session on Wednesday, but area business leaders aren't throwing in the towel.

"We're not stopping on this issue. Our members put a lot of time and effort into it," said Garrett Sheehan, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, adding that extending the runway would "help businesses in the entire region."

Sheehan and others in the business community, including executives from Yale New Haven Hospital, lobbied hard in favor of the legislation, which would have allowed Tweed to extend its main runway 1,000 feet.

Right now, state law limits the runway to its current length of 5,600 feet, which airport officials say is too short to accommodate most commercial aircraft.

"We're really striving for economic growth in our state and this seems like a simple solution that would enhance the economic development statement we are trying to make," Sheehan said.

American Airlines' daily flights to Philadelphia are currently the only commercial jet flights out of Tweed. The airport wants to add flights to Washington D.C., Chicago or Florida.

Residents living near the airport in East Haven and New Haven's Morris Cove section strongly opposed the runway extension, fearing more jets would bring noise, pollution and traffic. The airport is owned by the city of New Haven but located partially in East Haven.

In April, Mayor Toni Harp tried to assuage neighborhood concerns by proposing a new roundabout at the airport's entrance to ease congestion as well as other parking and traffic enhancements.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) on Wednesday called the city's efforts to engage the community and secure support from the city's Board of Alders "progress," but said they came too late in the legislative session.

"I am sure that the city will take the next several months to reach out to the affected neighborhood, all stakeholders and elected officials in order to build a consensus that respects both economic development opportunities and preservation of one of New Haven's core neighborhoods," Looney said in a statement.

"The concerns and the well-being of the community need to be put first," added state Rep. Al Paolillo Jr. (D-New Haven). "We need to bring together residents, stakeholders and local leaders to fully vet the city's proposal."

Tweed Executive Director Tim Larson said Thursday the airport would reach out to Looney and other lawmakers to see "what we can do on the airport side to hopefully gain their confidence."

Harp said in a statement that she would arrange for legislators to meet face-to-face with business leaders and area residents for "a candid exchange about how Tweed fits into a comprehensive plan for prosperity."

"While disappointed by this missed opportunity, my administration will continue working with the city's legislative delegation to unlock the untapped economic potential inherent at Tweed," she said.

Natalie Missakian can be reached at

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