Click on the questions below for answers to the most frequently asked questions about this project.

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What is a long-term plan?

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) Long-Term Plan (“the Plan”) is a forward-looking planning tool that studies the facility and infrastructure needs based on projected 20-year passenger demand and aircraft operations.

The planning process will focus on evaluating when facility improvements are needed to accommodate project demand in a manner that is safe, efficient, orderly and cost effective and that maintains and enhances customer service.

The Plan does not authorize construction or improvements to facilities. Nor does it serve as the basis for determining eligibility for noise mitigation programs. Rather, it helps the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) better understand and plan for future facility needs. The appropriate venue for the discussion and analysis of environmental mitigation, such as noise mitigation, in the context of a proposed development is in a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental document (Environmental Assessment, Environmental Impact Statement, etc.) or a separate Part 150 Study.

What prompted the need for a MSP Airport long-term plan?

Like cities in Minnesota, the MAC is required to complete a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan for each of its airports. The last MSP Airport plan was completed in 2010 with a planning period out to 2030. The MAC began to update the Plan in 2015, but it was paused at the request of community members to understand the implications of new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted air traffic control safety rules for converging runway operations (CRO). Those rules impacted forecast runway use and flight patterns and needed to be understood to provide a good-faith outlook of the airport. 

In 2019, the MAC launched efforts to update the Plan for MSP with a new planning horizon of 2020-2040. In March 2020, COVID-19 seriously disrupted day-to-day operations at MSP. Due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic in terms of airport facility requirements and airline and concessionaire operations, the Long-Term Plan was paused for 19 months. This allowed the MAC and its stakeholders to focus on business recovery and to better understand the lasting impacts a global pandemic will have on facility needs. The Long-Term Plan is now expected to be completed in late 2022.

Why is planning for the future important for MSP Airport?

MSP Airport is a major transportation asset in the region; therefore, it is important to plan for its future. The Airport serves a region of 3.6 million residents – the nation’s 16th largest in metropolitan service areas by population.  

The area is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies, several large private companies and tourist destinations such as the Mall of America. The region also supports a large number of colleges and universities including the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas. The area hosts teams in five different professional sports and has recently hosted Super Bowl LII, NCAA Frozen Four, X Games and the Ryder Cup. The airport serves as an anchor in the community and plays a significant role in supporting a thriving and diverse economy by transporting people, goods and services. The airport's 3,400 acres comprise the most valuable economic generator between the St. Croix River and Seattle, supporting more than 86,900 jobs and $6 billion in economic activity.

The MAC will plan for future facilities that will meet projected activity levels in a manner that will deliver on its mission to provide the best airport experience.

Will the public have an opportunity to view and comment on the Plan before it is finalized?

Public involvement is an important part of this project. The planning process will be divided into four distinct phases, or “milestones.” These milestones will culminate in a public event. Four public events will be held to share information about each phase and receive input. Input received during each milestone’s public event will help inform the remaining phases of the planning process. 

The dates, times and locations of these events will be determined before the event and posted to the project website. A notice will also be sent to subscribers who’ve asked to receive email notices about the project.

The fourth public event will occur during the public comment period, which will begin after the MAC board has approved publication of the draft plan. Written comments about the draft Plan will be collected during this time. Members of the public will be invited to submit written comments through email or physical delivery during the comment timeframe.

Ultimately the MAC Board will need to approve the Plan. However, the document’s approval does not authorize any construction or related activities. For any of the proposed projects to be included in the Capital Improvement Program and be approved for funding and construction, an environmental evaluation and Board authorization are required.

Additionally, the Metropolitan Council must review the Plan and determine if it is consistent with its Regional Transportation Plan.

How can I share my ideas?

Throughout the process, comments can be submitted using the “Contact Project Team” link on the project website, in writing sent to the email or mailing address posted on the project website, or in person at the public events.

How is input from the public being considered?

Input from the public is one of the factors that the project team will consider in developing the Plan. Other factors that are critical for the project team to consider include:

•    Airport level of service standards,
•    MAC’s established goals and objectives for the Plan,
•    Airport design standards,
•    Safety and feasibility,
•    Federal and state policies, and
•    Project costs

The Plan may not be able to incorporate all input provided by the public. The project team will listen to concerns, input and aspirations shared by the public and, when possible, make changes to alternatives developed to reflect public input. Additionally, feedback will be provided to the public on how it influenced decisions in the plan.

Comments from the public may be added to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the project website or answered verbally as part of a public event. Lastly, comments received during the public comment period after release of the draft Plan will be considered during its finalization.

Will my personal information be shared on the record if I participate in the process?

Sign-in sheets from public meeting events and Stakeholder Advisory Panel meetings will be included in the document. Additionally, comments made during the public comment period by municipalities, elected officials and associations will be included in their entirety and responded to in the final Plan. Comments from individuals during the public comment period will not be included in their entirety, nor will they include identifying information. Rather, they will be summarized and included in the final document.

Will the projected noise contours for 2040 be used to determine eligibility for the MAC's residential noise mitigation program?

No. The MSP Airport Long-Term Plan will not thoroughly review environmental impacts or identify mitigation strategies. Projected 2040 noise contours will be included in the Plan, as a requirement by Metropolitan Council. These projected noise contours are meant to provide an additional level of information about the long-term outlook for MSP. The MAC has a long history of addressing noise concerns, consistent with the needs of our community. Since 1992, the MAC has mitigated over 15,000 single-family and 3,300 multi-family homes, 19 schools at a cost of more than $500 million.

Potential future aircraft noise exposure documented in this Plan represents the best forecast available based on projections of future activity. The current mitigation program administered by MAC does not determine eligibility based on forecast noise exposure, but rather, actual noise exposure calculated annually. That actual data, not forecasted contours, will continue to be used to determine eligibility for noise mitigation.

Evaluation of the appropriate state and federal level of environmental review will be conducted prior to constructing new projects identified in the Plan. Such environmental review is the appropriate mechanism for evaluating any environmental impacts and mitigation strategies resulting from airport improvement projects.

What is the role/objective of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel?

The objectives of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel (“Panel”) are to present information about the planning process to major stakeholder groups and to ensure that those tasked with making planning decisions hear and consider public concerns and aspirations related to the process.

Specifically, the Panel is an advisory board representing major stakeholder groups that have an interest in the planning process. The Panel serves several important functions, including:

•    Representing a broad range of stakeholder groups; 
•    Receiving information about the planning process; and 
•    Communicating public concerns and aspirations as the voice of key stakeholders.

It is important to note that the Panel serves only in an advisory capacity.  While the Panel may offer opinions, advice and guidance, the MAC is solely responsible for all planning decisions.

Does the MAC consult with other airports and airlines about flight and passenger trends?

The MAC uses a variety of sources related to flight and passenger trends to inform the forecast. These include airports, airlines and industry groups. Information about passengers, airfares, cargo volumes, total flights, historical patterns, historical profitability, as well as socioeconomic data are all studied and utilized to produce the forecasts for the Long-Term Plan.

What role do outstate Minnesota airports play to relieve air traffic from MSP Airport?

The MAC operates one of the largest airport systems in the world with MSP and six general aviation “reliever” airports. These airports play a vital role in the Twin Cities metropolitan area as an attractive alternative to MSP for private and corporate pilots. These six airports—all within a 35-mile radius of the two downtowns—handle aircraft that would instead use MSP if the airports were not available. Aircraft operators determine which airports they will use. 

The airports located outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area serve the communities in their areas. 

Major airline and cargo operators tend to be located at a single airport near large metropolitan areas. Offering their services at a single airport allows airlines to operate more efficiently and generate enough travel demand so that more nonstop markets become viable. Over the past ten years, across the nation and in Minnesota, airlines have been withdrawing service from smaller airports, as they eliminate regional aircraft from their fleet and consolidate operations.

Is Area Navigation (RNAV) being considered as part of this plan?

No. Flight procedure development is conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration and will not be a component of the MSP LTP. 

Area Navigation (RNAV) technology is currently in place at MSP after the FAA implemented these procedures for arriving aircraft in 2015. If changes to departure procedures are deemed necessary by FAA, the MAC will communicate the necessity for FAA to conduct separate community outreach as appropriate. 

In the Forecast section of the Plan, what does PAL represent?

PAL is an acronym for Planning Activity Level. These levels are intended to represent thresholds to gauge when specific facilities may be required. Because forecasting future activity is not a perfect science, the use of Planning Activity Levels allows development and construction phasing to be designed to respond to activity trends and not simply to a year. If forecasted growth does not occur as quickly as anticipated, development can be delayed. Conversely, if growth accelerates beyond what was expected, future facilities may need to be developed sooner to accommodate the traffic.

In addition to baseline forecasts, the forecast also includes a forecast that is lower than expected, represented by the PAL 3 Low designation as well as a forecast that is higher than expected, represented by the PAL 3 High designation. This range of potential outcomes allows MAC to prepare the airport facilities for a range of potential outcomes.

How will MSP Airport development projects be funded?

Future development will continue to be self-funded by aviation users via FAA and/or Minnesota Department of Transportation grant programs, as well as Metropolitan Airports Commission funds. No local sales or property taxes will be used to fund airport improvements. 

Will there be flight path changes resulting from the MSP Airport Long-Term Plan?

The projects identified in the Long-Term Plan would not directly cause changes in flight paths. The Plan does not propose changes to the runways at MSP. The Plan does propose improvements to airport terminals, gate and passenger connectivity, improved aircraft ground movements, Federal Inspection Services for processing international passengers, increased space for overnight parking of aircraft, curbside and roadway congestion and long-term parking requirements for vehicles.  

Decisions about which runways are used at MSP and where pilots are instructed to fly are made by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials working in the MSP air traffic control facilities. Airport authorities, like the MAC, have no authority to dictate where or how airplanes fly.  

How do I share my questions or concerns about aircraft noise?

The Community Relations Office is your connection to the MAC. Recognizing the important role our system of airports plays in stimulating a broad, thriving and vibrant community, the MAC Community Relations Office offers a wide range of outreach activities to engage our diverse stakeholders, including addressing airport noise concerns. 

For decades, the MAC has been engaging communities, airport operators and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in cooperative efforts to reduce aircraft noise impacts associated with the MSP Airport and the MAC's six reliever airports. 

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