FAA Approves Grant to Conduct Acoustical Testing at Chamberlin

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Thursday August 02, 2018

The FAA approved a grant to conduct acoustical testing at Chamberlin School to determine its eligibility for sound insulation, the Burlington International Airport (BIA) confirmed. The grant, which was approved on June 18, is approximately $75,000.

The grant was submitted by BIA in April as a result of multiple discussions between the airport and the South Burlington School District, specifically, with Superintendent David Young, who has been persistent with both airport officials and the congressional delegation to move this forward.

“This has been an extensive process, one in which we’ve worked with the staff of South Burlington and the Superintendent David Young with for years,” said Nic Longo, deputy director of aviation at the airport.

Chamberlin School sits a half mile from the airport and near the Vermont Air National Guard base, putting it directly within the 65 dB DNL (decibel Day-Night Level) contour on the airport’s Noise Exposure Map. This made the building eligible for consideration via a grant request. This proximity also creates what is known as the “Chamberlin Pause,” brief interruptions to class time that are all-too-familiar among the school’s faculty and students.

Now with a federally-approved grant, the airport can move forward with creating an Acoustical Testing Plan documenting to the FAA how the testing will be completed. Longo said the testing should take about three days on-site, but that it could take up to a week depending on the weather. Pending FAA approval of the Acoustical Testing Plan, the airport hopes to start testing as early as the week of August 13.

The study will analyze the construction of the building and monitor noise both inside and outside the building. The interior threshold for eligibility is 45-dB (decibels) or higher.

“We’re actually going to study each [eligible] room,” Longo explained. By eligible, certain rooms, such as classrooms and offices, would be included in data collection. The gymnasium, due to the nature of its use, would not. “That’s really what this plan is; it will pull everything together saying you are or you are not eligible. If you are eligible, then we need to replace this window, or that door, or whatever the study will confirm.”

Jones Payne Group is the lead consultant on the project and will be working with subconsultant Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson (HMMH). Both Jones Payne Group and HMMH are contracted to work on the airport’s Noise Compatibility Program and Noise Exposure Maps, respectively.

“Our consultants have already met with Superintendent David Young about a month ago to kick things off. It’s very tough for us to start something like that early because we essentially have to upfront all of the costs for this, but we did that at our own risk and with fantastic communication with Superintendent Young and his staff,” Longo said.

In terms of timing, the grant application was submitted on the heels of an independent sound study on Chamberlin School that was conducted by ATC, an independent consulting firm, in early April. That study measured ambient noise both inside and outside the building as well as on Chamberlin staff members as they moved to different locations. Noise levels for this study were measured during the day (7 a.m.-10 p.m.), the school day (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and at night (10 p.m.-7 a.m.).

Since the FAA grant approval was uncertain, the school district took proactive measures to contract with the firm in late 2017, complete the study in April, and then review the results with ATC on June 6. That study cost the district $15,000.

The results from ATC may not be eligible to use under FAA consideration alongside the federal study, but the airport will cover its bases just in case, Longo said.

“I will request that our consultants meet with their consultants just to make sure that there are not some pieces that we might be able to use and collaborate on. Really, it’s going to be dependent on what Richard Doucette thinks is appropriate,” he said. Doucette is an FAA environmental program manager under the New England Regional Airports Division.

If the building is deemed eligible based on the acoustical testing results, the airport will then submit a grant to the FAA for the construction phase. Contingent on approval, construction could be completed as early as summer 2019. The F-16s will be departing Burlington in spring 2019, and the first two F-35s are scheduled to arrive in the fall.

“All the lines really connected in this scenario,” Longo explained. “This will be our first acoustical testing study that we’ve ever done here. This is going to be over a decade’s worth of work happening with sound insulation of that neighborhood. This is that kickoff to that insulation process.”

This is the same procedure the airport intends to take with residential as part of the Noise Compatibility Program (NCP). An updated NCP will request the FAA consider widening the area’s available land use options beyond acquisition and demolition; a residential sound insulation program would be one of the newer uses being requested. The NCP process is currently on-hold since the FAA approved the airport to update the Noise Exposure Maps to now include projected F-35 data. The NCP process will resume once Noise Exposure Map data is updated.

 

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent