The Port of Portland will begin construction of a third runway at Hillsboro Airport in July. Last week, the Port of Portland Commission approved a $3.5 million contract with Wildish Standard Paving Co. for the construction of Runway 13L/31R and associated infrastructure at Hillsboro Airport.

Runway 13L/31R will be a new 60-foot wide, 3,600-foot-long aviation runway parallel to existing Runway 13/31. The new runway is designed to provide the needed capacity to enable Hillsboro Airport to meet projected aviation demand for the next 30 years.

The construction of a parallel runway is one of the primary infrastructure capacity enhancements identified in the 2005 Hillsboro Airport Master Plan. Parallel runways will allow simultaneous operations of business-class aircraft on the existing runway, while smaller propeller aircraft will use the new, shorter runway. This segregation of aircraft is expected to enable air traffic controllers to direct aircraft more safely and efficiently, decreasing the wait for takeoffs or landings.

Airport officials said residents on the north side of the airport may notice changes in flight activity as the location of aerial flight training and helicopter operations shifts so as not to overfly construction activities. Additionally, there may be an increase in construction vehicles on Evergreen Road and Brookwood Parkway.

The Port has decided to move forward with constructing this runway despite an appeal filed in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Board of Appeals.

“Oregon Aviation Watch intends to file an injunction against the project until the case can be heard in the courts,” said OAW’s president, Miki Barnes. OAW is a Banks-based watchdog group that focuses on eliminating adverse impacts from aviation activity.

The OAW contends the addition of a publicly subsidized third runway at the Hillsboro Airport will nearly double the capacity of the airport, where the vast majority of the nearly quarter of a million annual operations are on behalf of private flight training interests.

OAW and its supporters cited numerous concerns related to the potential for adverse health and environmental impacts associated with the Hillsboro Airport. According to OAW representatives, the airport is a significant source of lead emissions as well as a source of acrolein; 1,3 butadiene; ethyl benzene; formaldehyde; acetaldehyde; organic carbon particulate matter 2.5; elemental carbon particulate matter 2.5; and carbon monoxide. The airport is also alleged by Oregon Aviation Watch to be “the second largest source of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter 2.5 emissions in Washington County.”

“All of the above listed pollutants are known to have negative impacts on human health. Some are carcinogens,” said Barnes.

Source of noise

Further, the OAW noted that the Hillsboro Airport is a major source of noise near the airport as well as in designated flight training areas within 20 miles.

“The intensive aviation activity from the multiple airports listed above constitutes an undue noise and pollution burden primarily for the benefit of the flight training industry and general aviation hobbyists, while the negative impacts are borne by area residents who are deprived of a voice in the process,” said Barnes.

Preparation of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the parallel runway project began in April 2008 and the Federal Aviation Administration issued a “finding of no significant impact” in January 2010. Local residents challenged the FAA’s decision to approve the new runway, and in August 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the matter to the FAA with instructions to perform additional analysis. A supplemental EA was prepared throughout 2012 and 2013. The FAA issued a new record of decision in February 2014 approving construction of the runway.

Port officials said the project will continue unless a court decides otherwise.

“If the (OAW) challenge results in agency- or court-imposed delays, the Port will respond accordingly,” said Kama Simonds, a spokesperson for the Port of Portland.

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