Burlington International Airport has received more than $6 million in federal grants to complete infrastructure upgrades and address noise concerns related to the controversial F-35 jets.
The largest of the three grants awarded to the Burlington travel hub is a $3.49 million appropriation that will be used to soundproof Chamberlin Elementary School in South Burlington, which is located just a few blocks from the airport.
The grant will pay for upgrades to the school's ventilation system so that it can keep its doors and windows closed year-round to cut down on flight noise, according to airport aviation director Gene Richards.
"That’s been a long time coming," Richards said Thursday.
Another grant worth $2.46 million will go toward the construction of a new "apron" around the BTV terminal, which the airport says will allow it to accommodate larger aircrafts. And a third grant of $340,000 will be used to install three "mobile sound monitoring units" to gauge noise generated by air traffic.
The grants are part of a $1.2 billion Trump administration initiative funneled through the Federal Aviation Administration that will benefit some 400 airports around the country.
Richards said he has received tentative approval from Winooski and Williston officials to base one of the mobile noise monitoring units at each of their municipal offices. He hoped that the third unit could be placed near the Chamberlain School.
"That is probably far better and more helpful to the communities than putting it at the end [of the tarmac]," he said. "We know it’s loud there. This will give a more accurate depiction of what the sound is."
The airport plans to work with a consultant to set up the monitoring program. Richards said the end goal is to have a website on which community members can check the airport's noise levels at any time of the day.
Vermont's congressional delegation celebrated the grants in a press release on Thursday, saying they have consistently sought more federal funding to remediate noise issues caused by the airport.
"These initial grants ... are an encouraging first step as we continue to advocate the communities surrounding the airport," Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said in the statement.
"We look forward to working with federal, state, and local partners on future noise-proofing projects, including in communities not currently helped by this funding," they added.