WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been a long time coming.
After buying up and knocking down several homes, re-routing roads, relocating city sports fields and years and years of discussions, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation celebrated the start of the building of the extended runway at T.F. Green Airport Monday morning with a ceremonial groundbreaking.
A speaking program took place inside a tent adjacent to the existing airport property, with remarks from Gov. Gina Raimondo, the Rhode Island Congressional delegation, Mayor Scott Avedisian, and airport leaders.
“In my experience, no project has been so thoroughly reviewed, scrutinized, commented upon, [or] vetted – over such a protracted period,” Peter Frazier, the interim President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, told onlookers. “That process, however, only serves to exemplify the importance of the project to the traveling public, and indeed the impact to the host community.
“In the end, the process worked.”
Frazier paused, as the noise of a jet taking off overpowered any amplified sound or utterance he might make.
“Those,” he said, meaning the plane’s passengers, “are tourists, businesspeople, troops, and families – people spending money in the state of Rhode Island,” as those in attendance chuckled at his timing. “We get to hear that every day multiple times,” he added.
Frazier thanked Sen. Jack Reed for helping to secure funding.
Reed, in turn, thanked former Gov. Lincoln Chafee for his efforts years ago in supporting the project.
Before the expansion was green-lit by the FAA in 2011, the plan had been under study for more than a decade. The runway known as 5-23 is being extended into the new property. Reed noted that much has already been done to clear the way for it: the relocation of Main Avenue, removing an old hangar, relocating the ballfields of Winslow Park, acquiring and removing homes, and more.
Making the runway longer will allow the airport to accommodate – or in fact, bid for – more regular long-haul flights, domestic and international, Reed said.
December 2017 is the deadline for testing the new runway, with an opening date to be announced.
“Not a single penny of Rhode Island tax dollars is going into this,” noted Gov. Raimondo, because Reed and his Congressional colleagues “worked relentlessly to bring in tens of millions of dollars from the federal government. And we are forever grateful for that.”
Raimondo said the expansion will make the state more attractive to businesses that might settle here.
“When I am out and about – as the Senator said, crusading… to get business to Rhode Island, every one of them wants to know about our airport. [The expansion and long-haul flights] is a sure signal we are on the move, and we are open for business.”