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"St. Louis Airport, Bridgeton End 20 Year Dispute"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

St. Louis Airport, Bridgeton End 20 Year Dispute
The St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch

Bridgeton and Lambert Field officials announced Wednesday that they've ended 20 years of fighting over Lambert's new runway.

Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers and Airport Director Kevin Dolliole stood together in an airport conference room and said they've struck an agreement that resolves all remaining legal issues between them. After two decades, Bridgeton and the airport are on good terms again, they said.

"History is history," Bowers said. "The runway is there. We're moving ahead as a city."

The agreement, reached after about 18 months of negotiations, involves a land swap.

Lambert would give Bridgeton 43 acres of what used to be the Carrollton subdivision, east of Interstate 270. Lambert acquired that land and about 2,000 homes in Bridgeton to build the runway, which opened in April. The city will use the 43 acres as parkland, Bowers said.

In exchange, Lambert will get the 14 acres that holds Bridgeton City Hall and Oak Valley Park on Natural Bridge Road, and Freebourn Park near the buyout area. The airport will use the city building for offices, once Bridgeton officials have a new government complex. A location hasn't been chosen.

City leaders have wanted to relocate City Hall because it's 800 feet from the runway. They have said that the proximity could put city employees in danger. And then there's the noise issue.

"When they are using the runway, you have to be in City Hall to appreciate the experience," Bowers said.

Lambert also will build a connector road from Woodford Way to Gist Road. Mostly, the agreement involves trading land titles. Some money will change hands, too, but neither Bowers nor Dolliole would disclose the amount until Bridgeton's litigation against the airport is officially settled. The accord still must be approved by Bridgeton City Council and St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

The dispute between Bridgeton and Lambert involved unsuccessful summits and numerous lawsuits and became personal at times. Bridgeton residents picketed St. Louis City Hall and the home of then-Airport Director Leonard Griggs, contending that the new runway was unnecessary and would destroy their community.

Dolliole on Wednesday called the agreement "historic." When he took over as airport director in 2004, he said he wanted to rebuild relations between the airport and its neighbors.

Lambert officials planned the new runway when the airport was the bustling hub for TWA. Then American Airlines bought TWA and in 2003, slashed its St. Louis schedule by half. Flights and passengers are slowly returning. Since the $1.1 billion runway opened, pilots have used it about 5 percent of the time.

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