To fill a Mockingbird: Airport’s aim for a new entrance could trade traffic snarls for neighbor ones
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
As part of our #GiveMeGreen series, Friends of Bachman Lake will take a look at issues affecting the communities around Bachman Lake. The ”island airport” known as Dallas Love Field is literally surrounded by neighborhoods, and while residents made their homes around an airport that they knew existed, incremental encroachment wasn’t part of the plan, but definitely has been a part of the area’s history, even recently.
Since the 1950’s the main entrance to Love Field has been from Mockingbird Lane. For years, families have made investments in purchasing homes in neighborhoods all around the airport with this access to the airport in mind. Since the 1990's, the expectation was that any growth in Love Field's operations would be limited to general aviation, since the Wright Amendment imposed strict limits on the types of commercial airline service allowed from the airport. With the repeal of the Wright Amendment in 2014, the only limit that remains is the maximum number of gates allowed at the airport. Keep in mind that a single gate, on average, is expected to handle 10 flights per day so airline operations alone could contribute roughly 200 daily departures from the airport. General aviation and other non-scheduled operations, including business jets, are not under restrictions.
Over the years, neighbors have reluctantly accepted the increase in noise and vehicular traffic despite a voluntary noise abatement program in place for night hours. The key word is voluntary. The noise and runway restrictions in place for night hours will be challenged later this year when the Denton Avenue runway closes for at least 9 months for reconstruction, putting all traffic on a single runway parallel to Lemmon Avenue.
One of the most impressive community advocates over the last decades, Pat White, helped negotiate the the prior gate limit for Love Field as well as controlled hours of operations (no scheduled flights between 11PM and 6AM) for commercial aircraft. However, this too has eroded at Love Field as general aviation and smaller regional jets have flown under the restrictions radar because they’re allowed to. This has put more pressure on the community to 'police' the airport, but avenues are few.
The airport-sponsored Love Field Environmental Advisory Committee meetings are held quarterly, but we’ve found recently that lack of awareness results in lower attendance based on the number of residents affected by activity at the airport. Also, representation by the FAA, the Airport Tower and Southwest Airlines is not always consistent. The Good Neighbor Program meetings, also held quarterly, do encourage attendees to ask questions in a forum setting, however the typical presentation is a mostly top-down recap of airport initiatives that lightly touch upon community-friendly topics such as the planned addition of sidewalks along Lemmon Avenue, but are more often aviation-focused endeavors. The most recent meeting was heavily attended and featured many questions about noise, after-hours operations and a possible north entrance, indicative of the growing interest among neighbors in the airport activities directly affecting them.
Photo c1987 Texashistory.unt.edu
As the airport contemplates a northern entrance, benignly touted as an “alternate” entrance, neighbors are once again on notice. The arguments for an alternate entrance are fueled by claims that traffic along Mockingbird Lane is creating choke points at various intersections. However, we think it would be beneficial to determine the origin and destination of this traffic. If such a study exists, we have not been privy to it. Are the backups caused by cars entering and exiting the airport, or are they the result of commuters getting to and from their homes to the north and east of the airport – congestion that an alternate entrance would not resolve?
With planes flying directly overhead, the oft-neglected Northwest Dallas neighborhoods are as much literal fly-over country as they are overlooked communities, so it’s no surprise that skepticism abounds. The fear is that the voiceless will once again lose out. One way around this is a seat at the table for representatives of all the surrounding neighborhoods.
Friends of Bachman Lake is asking the airport to include the community in its consideration of a new entrance and also how it plans to connect pedestrian access from the airport property to surrounding neighborhoods. We are not against the idea of an alternate entrance. Our main goal is to protect the lake and park and the community’s access to it, as well as the quality of life for a community that feels like it’s often treated as an afterthought, if thought of at all. This means more than being allowed to participate in public commentary after a decision has already been made about the entrance. It means neighbors having a say on the multiple options under consideration as well as being able to offer alternatives of their own. Listening: isn’t that what being a good neighbor is all about?