Students lose sleep over increased air traffic

Planes Over UAA.png
Photo credit: Levi Brown

For Alaskans, summer is synonymous with construction, road closures, detours and other traffic inconveniences. But this summer, residents of East Anchorage are having to put up with an unfamiliar kind of construction noise, and it’s coming from the sky.

A large maintenance project at Ted Stevens International Airport has changed the route for flights taking off and landing from over the water of Cook Inlet to over the city of Anchorage.

“The issue is [that] the last time the runway was reconstructed was 15 years ago. The runway has reached its life expectancy,” Jim Szczesniak, the airport manager at Ted Stevens International Airport, said.

“In the name of safety, we need to recondition that runway so that it’s up to standards, and that requires that we close our north/south runway to do that this summer and next,” Szczesniak added.

The runway renovation, which began in June, will continue into October before picking up again for the summer of 2019.

According to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities website, construction is being scheduled in a way to maximize the amount of work that can take place in the summer.

“To expedite project delivery, construction is scheduled 7 days per week, 24 hours per day, from the middle of June through October 2018. During the 2018 construction season, the North/South Runway will have full or partial closures for brief durations. There will be a three-week full closure starting on June 18, 2018. Between these fully closed periods, the shortened runway is anticipated to remain operational. The full length of the North/South Runway will be returned to service for the winter 2018/2019,” states the portion of the post on the construction season.

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The project, which is mostly federally funded, will cost about 70 million dollars, according to Szczeniak.

Students and guest staying in summer housing have taken notice of the audible increase in noise.

Taylor Cook, a junior studying health sciences, is working this summer as a guest service representative for UAA Conference Services, and living in the MACs.

Cook says that guests staying on campus have “voiced concerns and annoyance” about the planes flying overhead.

“Personally, I’ve found the planes to be really annoying,” said Cook. “[It] messes up my sleeping and disturbs me when I’m studying because it’s really loud and distracting… I can’t help but pause mid-study.”

Jamie Logan, a senior studying sociology who has lived on campus for four years, has also been affected by the increase in noise.

“It’s been driving me nuts,” Logan said.

“It’s a temporary situation,” Szczesniak said. “Flights will go back to normal once construction is over this construction season, and it will resume next construction season. Everything will go back to normal, hopefully, for the next 15-plus years until we have to do it again.”