The Friends of Bachman Lake (FoBL) has been engaging with the Aviation Department of Dallas to learn more about what's happening with Bachman Lake's biggest neighbor, Dallas Love Field (DAL). To make sure the metal birds don't overwhelm our enjoyment of the feathered ones, we've set out to get some answers about projects affecting the communities surrounding Bachman Lake Park – both positive and potentially negative.
Love Field Environmental Advisory Committee
FoBL attended the Love Field Environmental Advisory Committee meeting as well as the quarterly Good Neighbor Program gathering earlier this month. We'll get you caught up on the environmental part first. The meeting had good representation by neighborhoods to the east and south of the airport, less so by neighborhoods to the north and west of the airport. Hey, Bachman community, we're looking at you!
While the environmental committee deals with matters of noise, waste and wildlife, the meeting was heavily focused on noise, especially considering the upcoming airport projects that could send more aircraft over certain neighborhoods for several months once runway reconstruction on the Denton Avenue side and other projects begin in late 2020, early 2021. All airport upgrade and construction activity expected to continue into 2022. Once the runway closure begins, it will be at least nine months before it reopens, depending on weather, according to Love Field representatives.
With respect to noise, a new sensor will be added to the existing ones at Bachman Lake Park which will help identify the flight(s) flying too low or during unapproved times. Love Field has a voluntary noise abatement program in which aircraft weighing over 12,500 lbs are asked to use the Denton Avenue runway (13R-31L), known as the "preferential runway," between the hours of 9:00PM and 6:00AM. This doesn't always happen, however. Airline schedule irregularities, emergencies and air traffic decisions sometimes result in a breach of the "quiet hours" protocol.
In order to address citizen concerns, the airport has created an online Noise Lab which features useful information on flight tracking, noise profiles and even a way to file a noise complaint directly from the site. The Love Field Airport website itself is currently undergoing a redesign that should make information easier to access. But what about the residents most affected by the airplane noise? The airport will inform communities most affected by the runway closure before reconstruction is set to begin.
FoBL asked about the surrounding buildings and apartment dwellers. It appears that sometime in the 1970s, federal money was made available to soundproof some public buildings, particularly schools, under the flight path of aircraft. We're still trying to find out if such a program still exists or what might be available today to achieve the same result, even for residents. We've asked Love Field for more information because we'd like to know if facilities such as Public Libraries and Recreation Centers near airports should have the same noise analysis and remediation as was done decades ago.
On a positive note, aircraft today are indeed quieter than they were in the 1970s so noise levels should actually be lower than decades ago. The problem is that the frequency of flights at DAL has gone up which means noise happens more often. Unfortunately, one of the quietest aircraft, the Boeing 737 MAX, remains grounded over safety concerns and the largest operator of the type, Southwest Airlines, has to rely on older, louder equipment to make up its schedule.
Good Neighbor Program
FoBL also attended the Love Field Good Neighbor Program (GNP), which provides an update on community-focused efforts by the Aviation Department. A copy of the presentation can be accessed here.
The airport has plans to upgrade fencing surrounding the field and to improve auto and pedestrian access along Herb Keller Way, the main roadway leading to and from the main terminal. Pedestrian access around the airport perimeter was also discussed, mainly along Lemmon Avenue, as there are barren stretches of land with no sidewalks or trails. FoBL has the airport to do its best to prioritize this access – along Denton Drive as well – so that the eventual connection to Bachman Lake Trail can be made sooner than later.
Questions at the meeting from the community centered around two key issues: water quality at the lake due to airport runoff, and a study for an alternate entrance to the airport that could be ready for review by City Council in November. We want to make sure that citizens have a say before the Council gets a vote so we're keeping a close watch on this activity.
Where does airport runoff go?
With respect to water quality, the airport asserts that very little runoff from airport activity winds up in Bachman Lake despite there being twelve drainage locations surrounding the airport. Most of the runoff comes from surrounding neighborhoods, according to officials. The airport says that it does test for pollutants in accordance with environmental quality rules at outflows that fall within the scope of the industrial permitting that airport activities fall under. However, not all outlfows fall under this scope and thus do not require a monitoring permit.
Despite relatively mild winters, there is an occasional need to apply de-icing fluid to aircraft before takeoff at Love Field. We asked about the runoff from these chemicals. The response was that the airport takes great care in containing any de-icing runoff by shutting off affected outflow valves and collecting the waste at that location for proper disposal. The airport also directs the runoff to locations on the field that can later be serviced, ensuring none of the residue is discharged outside of airport grounds. We were told that de-icing fluid is only applied in specific locations to help with this mitigation.
North by northWHAT?
The other issue looming large is the study the airport has commissioned for the creation of an alternate entrance into Love Field. This could greatly impact the quality of life for the communities around Bachman Lake. The study is due to be reviewed by the City Council in November, but FoBL wants citizens to have a say before that time. The driving force behind the study is the reported congestion on Herb Keller Way where it meets Mockingbird Lane. An alternate entrance to the airport could ease some of that traffic, according to airport officials. The question is: where will this entrance be and will it move the congestion to Northwest Highway instead?
FoBL vehemently opposes any solution that will take vehicular traffic over the lake itself. Let's hope that's not even under consideration. What we do advocate for is a smart solution that takes advantage of the multi-modal opportunities from the Bachman or Burbank DART Rail stations. We believe that motorists and DART riders can use the stations as a walk-off or drop-off point before accessing a mobility solution into the terminal area. There once was a people-mover proposed when the DART stations were being built along the Green Line, but it was considered too expensive at the time. With runway reconstruction and other infrastructure projects at the airport set to occur between late 2020 through 2022, we feel this is an ideal opportunity to once again consider tunneling into the terminal area to give passengers a car-less option into the airport. We believe that motorists should have the option of driving to the original airport entrance, or to the drop-off points at or near the DART station(s) instead of a car-only solution into another entrance that only moves congestion from one area (Mockingbird Lane) to another (Northwest Highway). We'll see if this is even under consideration once the study is complete. Though the focus has been on a "northern" entrance, Dallas Love Field officials acknowledge that they are open to alternate entrances at any ideal location along the perimeter of the field.
What FoBL has learned since these meetings:
There is really some good news on the horizon. The empty field north of Bachman Lake off of Northwest Highway and Webb Chapel Road is indeed looking more like a future recreational spot. With few hurdles to overcome, it's likely that the community will have something great to look forward to in that space. The airport has confirmed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which keeps equipment on the property, has no issues with using that field as part of the park, provided that the equipment is protected and that additional birds are not attracted to the airport. FoBL will meet with various interested parties to see how this space can best be utilized. Can we use it to connect pedestrians and cyclists to the Bachman Lake trail via a bridge over Northwest Highway as part of a larger roadway improvement project along Northwest Highway? Can we use some of the space for a skate park instead of putting it by the proposed aquatic center and current recreation center? Stay tuned.
We've also learned that there is a plan to create a "loop" trail around Dallas Love Field. As we work to connect people and cyclists to Bachman Lake Trail and beyond from the airport, we'll definitely keep our eyes on this project as it should dovetail nicely into efforts to pave paths along Lemmon to Shorecrest and – we hope – along Denton Drive to Bachman Lake Trail from both the north and south of Bachman Lake.