Tierney City Council Resolution #61587 To Fund Noise Abatement

by Harry Richardson and Barb Smith 

of Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin

As many residents will tell you, noise from both commercial and military aircraft at the county airport is a burden to those living on the east and north sides of Madison. The proposed deployment of a squadron of F-35 fighter jets will greatly worsen the health, education and quality of life of city residents. The Air Force selection of Truax Field was an irresponsible and unpopular decision, especially since its own EIS showed Madison would have the greatest environmental impacts of any site being considered, and many of these impacts would fall on low income and families of color forced to live near Truax Field. 

Despite the anticipated impacts, this resolution is not going to provide relief. To effectively mitigate the noise issue you would have to at minimum fund relocation of all residences, schools and daycare centers within three miles of the airport to another neighborhood, while also keeping communities intact. To mitigate the problems, you should continue to oppose the siting of the F-35 jets here in Madison, work to change the mission of the Truax National Guard base to one that is more compatible with an urban residential neighborhood, and stop further construction of low-income housing in neighborhoods impacted by airport noise.

Please recognize that this sound-proofing plan will not offset the F-35s effects in outdoor spaces, in commercial buildings, schools, community centers, or clinics, in mobile homes, and probably not in rental housing either. In any case, we believe the state is unlikely to approve special sound proofing assistance for the north side of Madison. There are such large needs with the COVID pandemic that this will not be a priority for the legislature. 

Unfortunately, this proposal follows the pattern of local and state governments providing supplemental economic assistance to military contractors and military projects. We are already paying for national security with our federal tax dollars. Every dollar spent on military-related projects could create many more jobs if redirected from “defense” related work to education, health, or almost any other economic sector, according to this research: https://watsonbrown.edu/costofwar/costs/economic

While Alder Tierney may be well intentioned, his resolution will not provide help in real time for people most in need of noise mitigation because of the basing of the F-35 at Truax Field. 


Let me explain the current situation on the noise abatement issue based on our research at Safe Skies Clean Water Coalition, primarily taken from the Air Force’s own environmental impact statement EIS). 

  • Dane County is responsible for all noise abatement.
  • A portion of the costs for Truax to accommodate the F-35 will be borne by state and local taxpayers, including clean-up of existing contaminants at the base and mitigation and re-housing for residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. (angf35eis.com).
  • Costs could reach tens of millions to relocate people or soundproof homes in the area which was found to be incompatible for residential use. Since the EIS used an outdated 50-year old noise standard, it ignores the 60,000 residents living within three miles of Truax Field who will also be affected. The F-35 will be four times louder than the current F-16s, and will fly 47% more often. Our sister organization in Burlington, Vermont already has these F-35 jets and confirms these jets are much louder than the existing F-16 jets.
  • This level of noise can have a detrimental effect on a variety of people including those with PTSD, autism, mental illness, and other neurological and sensory vulnerabilities. Children will especially be affected.
  • There will be at least 292 people living in the 132 homes that will be in the 70-75 dB DNL* zone. There are 1,318 households and 2,766 people exposed to noise within the 65 dB DNL*(decibels day night average sound level) zone. These areas are deemed “potentially incompatible with residential use” in the Environmental Impact Statement. This 65 dB DNL noise standard is over 50-years old and is based solely on annoyance.
  • Some noise abatement funding may be available from the FAA, after a lengthy review process which would not begin until approximately two years after the jets are housed here and flights are stabilized. There will be an initial increase in flights due to having both F16s and F35s on base. 
  • Our county airport has historically failed to provide FAA noise abatement measures to households already impacted by aircraft noise. Instead it has used avigation easements to pay residents to endure the effects of excessive noise.
  • Peak noise levels at take-off and landing are at a level dangerous to children and vulnerable adults. Studies have shown effects to internal organs and to learning. Please check the Madison-Dane County Public Health Dept. analysis and World Health Organization research.   *DNL is the sound level averaged over a  24-hour period. The EIS used this calculation to determine the zone for homes that are “incompatible with residential use.” However, this number does not convey the immediate impact of the sound at take-off. The actual sound at take-off in the backyard of a home in the 75db zone is equivalent to being at a rock concert next to the speakers, and in the 65db zone a close up power saw.
  • A disproportionate number of vulnerable houses are occupied by low income and minority populations.
  • Children will be particularly impacted by increased noise levels, producing cognitive impairment, negative effects on reading and memory, and post-traumatic stress.
  • Medical studies have shown that noise has a far-reaching impact that can lead to stress, sleep disturbance, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. 

There is no way this resolution will help mitigate these overwhelming problems; only your continued opposition to the citing of the  F-35 at Truax Field can do that. Please continue to support the people of Madison, particularly those low income and people of color in the Truax neighborhood directly affected by this mistaken, needless venture.

Due to the reckless decision by the Air Force to deploy the F-35 jets to Madison, we are now working to ask Governor Evers and Adjutant General Knapp of the Wisconsin National Guard to find a new mission for the 115th Fighter Wing other than training fighter jet pilots. We would like a mission that benefits our community rather than sickens our residents. We ask that you have the City of Madison ask for a new mission. 

Additionally, the EIS for the F-35 jets shows there will be adverse impacts due to noise exposure in neighborhoods around the airport. Unfortunately, this information is being ignored as projects for low-income housing are proposed on the north and east sides of Madison. We think the City should enact a moratorium on low-income housing in these neighborhoods unless a more thorough study of F-35 impacts is conducted.

Thank you.