Supreme Court Won't Hear Appeal Over Airport Runway

March 23, 2020 - 10:58 am
U.S. Supreme Court

© Xinhua

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC and AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Connecticut's appeal of a ruling that overturned a state law limiting the length of Tweed-New Haven Airport's main runway, handing the small airport a victory in its attempts to expand airline service.

The justices gave no reason Monday for the decision, under their normal practice.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in July that the 2009 state law is pre-empted by federal aviation law, overturning a 2017 ruling by a federal magistrate judge in Hartford who upheld the state law.

Officials at the public airport argued the state law that limited the main runway to its current 5,600 feet (1,707 meters) has prevented the airport from drawing more commercial airlines and flights, because the runway is too short for most commercial planes to take off. The runway is one of the shortest commercial airport runways in the country. Officials have proposed lengthening Runway 2/20 to about 7,200 feet (2,195 meters) on existing airport property.

At Tweed, American Airlines currently offers daily flights to and from Philadelphia and weekly flights to and from Charlotte, North Carolina.

“After ten years of limitations, Tweed-New Haven Airport is finally free to pursue expanding our runway within our existing property lines and to meet the growing demand for more frequent air service in southern Connecticut,” Sean Scanlon, the airport's executive director, said in a written statement.

“We are very excited about what this will mean in terms of new air service in New Haven and to our local economy and we look forward to working with all local stakeholders including our neighbors to determine how best to move forward now that this case is finally over," he said.

A message seeking comment was left for state Attorney General William Tong's office, which had defended the state law.

In 2002, the state and the Federal Aviation Administration approved a master plan for Tweed that included extending the main runway to 7,200 feet. The 2009 state law was passed as part of a large state budget bill — without a public hearing — as New Haven-area lawmakers said they were concerned a longer runway and more air traffic at Tweed would harm nearby residents' quality of life and the environment.

New Haven officials and area business leaders had praised the decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying area residents deserve better airline services. Many of the region's residents travel out of either Bradley International Airport north of Hartford or the airports in New York and New Jersey.

Tweed-New Haven Airport lies in both New Haven and East Haven along Long Island Sound and is run by an airport authority appointed by mayors of both municipalities.