"Is there any greater symbol of our failure to control sprawl in Dane County than the continued presence of the county airport within Madison?"
(Wisconsin State Journal, August 19, 2007)

Boycott the Dane County Airport and show support for a healthy and sustainable Madison.
Here are a few reasons why you should boycott the airport:

You love Madison -- The county airport is anti-Madison. It makes our city an unhealthy place to live, promotes sprawl, contributes to global warming, and creates poverty.

You support healthy neighborhoods - Noise from airplanes both in the air and on the ground makes Madison an unhealthy and unpleasant place to live. For miles around noise interrupts conversations, rattles windows, and interferes with the lives of thousands of Madison residents. See Noise Pollution Takes Toll on Health and Happiness

You think polluters should clean up their mess -- The airport is an irresponsible polluter. According to the FAA, the airport’s noise control plan was last updated in 1996. Despite an unlimited budget, the airport has failed to update its plan to modern standards like other airports and has violated FAA regulations which require a new plan to address increased noise levels. The airport continues to violate its outdated noise control plan. While claiming it controls noise by sending flights to the north of the city and away from populated areas of Madison, the airport continues to send over 50,000 planes each year over the heads and ears of city residents.

You support Smart Growth and oppose sprawl -- The Comprehensive Plan for the City of Madison must accommodate the airport by removing over 7,000 acres or 11 square miles from residential development in the city. This creates an inhabitable “Airport Ghetto”. This land is large enough to contain the cities of Monona, Stoughton and Verona with combined populations of over 27,000 people. Noise from the airport further discourages people from living in the surrounding neighborhoods on the east and north sides of Madison. Other airports like Austin and Denver have relocated their airports outside the city and redeveloped the old airport sites into smart growth showplaces.

You want to help stop global warming -- Travel by airplane is the most energy consuming form of travel. Why throw away your efforts to live green and sustainable by a gas-guzzling airplane ride? Short flights to nearby hubs like Milwaukee and Chicago consume more fuel and generate more emissions than any other form of travel. It is like every passenger is each driving the largest Hummer SUV. A family of four could drive their more fuel-efficient Toyota Prius to the Milwaukee airport over 20 times before consuming the fuel from a connecting flight.

You want an honest and responsive government -- The airport is represents government at its worst. With an unlimited and independent budget controlled by an unaccountable commission, the airport never suffers budget cuts and has no incentive to respect the health of well-being of Madison residents.

You believe in environmental justice -- It's not surprising that the city's Neighborhood Indicators website shows that neighborhoods surrounding the airport have become some of the poorest in Madison with the highest rates of government assistance, lowest property values and highest home foreclosure rates. Poor residents are an easy target for the airport since they are unable to defend themselves.

You support a clean environment and agree with Woodsy Owl -- Who says “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”.


Noise Over

Woodsy Owl
Madison has an opportunity to create affordable homes.
Madison and Dane County are making plans for the future. Plans for making Madison a better place to live. Plans to reduce suburban sprawl. But something is missing. The city's Comprehensive Plan removes thousands of acres in Madison from future residential growth where no one is allowed to live. This area could provide affordable homes to 40,000 more city residents who would inject their vitality into our community.

Why is this area considered uninhabitable? The Dane County Regional Airport. It has created an area unsuitable for people to live. Instead of the benefits of additional city residents, Madison gets an airport ghetto. While surrounding communities grow, the county airport stops residential growth in Madison. The picture at right shows Madison's airport ghetto. Click on the image to see the full extent of this area.

It doesn't need to be this way. Madison and Dane County can follow the lead of other cities like Austin, Texas, by relocating the county airport outside the city and replacing it with a lively, urban area - a Smart Growth showplace.

Joel Hirschhorn, author of "Sprawl Kills - How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health and Money," and former UW professor and Madison resident, says:

"The concept of carefully examining relocating the Dane County airport to free up considerable land for close-in development that would reduce sprawl around Madison is a fine illustration of "smart growth" thinking.  City and county officials should be encouraged by thoughtful citizens and business leaders to pursue analysis of this option."
Madison's Airport Ghetto
Boundaries of the Airport Ghetto
What have other communities done?
Austin, Texas relocated their city airport and the former Peter Mueller Municipal Airport has been redeveloped into a "new mixed-use urban village in the heart of Austin. Mueller is a model for responsible planning and sustainability. In every way, Mueller breaks the mold and offers a variety of homes, shops, services, schools and places to work and play in a setting that's vibrant, pleasing and downright friendly."

By mid-2007, the project's developer will build 4,600 homes, including single-family and multifamily units, half for owners and half for renters, priced at $130,000 to $550,000.

Learn more by visiting the web site:

Click on the image to the right and see Austin's plan for development of the former Mueller airport site.

Austin's Urban Village
                              Airport Redevelopment Plan
Denver, Colorado relocated their city airport and redeveloped the 4,700 acre Stapleton International Airport site into "the nation’s largest urban development, is an urban tapestry of homes, shops, offices, parks, and schools in a walkable community of classic city architecture."

According to the Sierra Club, the conversion of Stapleton is a model of smart growth development. Only 10 minutes from downtown Denver, the mixed-use project will add 12,000 housing units, including detached houses, town houses and lofts by 2020. Read the Sierra Club comments on the redevelopment of Stapleton, or visit the web site:

Click on the image to the right and see Denver's plan for redevelopment of the former Stapleton airport site.
Denver's  Walkable Community
Stapleton Airport Redevelopment Plan

Other examples of airport redevelopment into residential housing include the Vancouver, Washington; San Bernardino, California; and Burlington, Connecticut. Read about these projects in the March 12, 2006 article in the New York Times -- End of the Runway: New Homes Are Rising.

How would you redevelop the county airport site in Madison?
Here is a sampling of redevelopment ideas from elsewhere in the country:
  • A compact, mixed-use urban village.
  • Homes, shops, offices, parks, and schools in a walkable community.
  • Public spaces, not just places for driving but for walking, biking, hanging out, attending concerts or outdoor movies.
  • Easy access to downtown Madison or the UW via bike path or bus.
  • Bridges and walking paths over Starkweather Creek.
  • Designed to minimize traffic congestion both within the community and on surrounding roadways
  • A Town Center to provide retail and services neighbors need, all within walking distance.
  • A place to work for artists and entrepreneurs, small businesses and larger employers seeking an accessible yet vibrant place to call home.
  • Use of New Urbanism design to provide walkable neighborhoods similar to Madison's older neighborhoods.
  • Use of Green Building Program and LEEDS certification.
  • Houses that feature a front porch
  • Smaller lots with public open space and parks as gathering places.
  • Sidewalks with tree lawns to encourage pedestrian activity
  • Dining, shopping and nightlife 24-hour a day within walking distance of most residences.
  • Workplaces and cultural venues close to housing.
  • Public art like sculptures, murals or fountains to enliven public spaces for living, working, or relaxing.
  • Incorporation of public art into bus shelters, information kiosks or public benches.
  • A community that not only enhances the quality of life for people today, but also ensures that the needs of future generations can be met. 
  • Use the existing county airport terminal to service a high-speed rail connection from Madison to Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • Pictures and sketches from similar airport redevelopment projects are shown at the right.

What's at stake by leaving the county airport in Madison?
The county airport is an economic burden to Madison residents.
  • The county airport is a regional facility with regional benefits. It does not need to be located in the heart of Madison where it consumes valuable land and makes the city less desirable place to live.
  • The county airport removes over 7,000 acres from future residential growth. This area could provide homes for 40,000 more residents. Unlike concrete runways, these residents would contribute to the vitality of Madison.
  • Based on the average household income for Dane County, those 40,000 residents would earn $200 million and generate $1 billion in economic benefits to be reinvested into the city. That means for every airport passenger, Madison loses $1,000 in economic benefits.
  • The Los Angeles International Airport is spending $500 million to offset its environmental, economic and educational impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and communities. How much should the county airport pay surrounding Madison neighborhoods? Like LAX, these funds could be used for soundproofing schools and homes, job training, and studying the air quality, health, and environmental impacts on surrounding communties.
  • The county airport pays no property taxes. A comparably-sized residential area would provide over $46 million each year to support better schools and city services.
  • By continuing to use valuable city land to accommodate the county airport, those 40,000 residents will be living outside Madison, commuting to jobs in the city, and consuming far more land and resources than if they lived in the city.
  • According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Madison had a 3.1% unemployment rate in 2005. That's full employment and consistently the lowest unemployment in Wisconsin.
  • The U.S. census for 2000 reports that over 85,000 people or nearly half of the people working in Madison commute from outside the city.  Madison needs more balance. With nearly half of Madison workers commuting from outside the city, we need to provide more housing, especially affordable housing, for people already working here, not to create jobs for more commuters increasing sprawl.
The county airport is an environmental burden to Madison residents.

  • According to USEPA, environmental justice demands that everyone enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. The county airport has created a class of city residents surrounding the airport who are not being protected and have no ability to defend themselves.
  • Noise control by the Dane County Airport is a failure. A 1996 noise impact study conducted by the county airport determined there are over 6,000 people living in areas which exceed FAA noise standards. In response, the county airport did nothing. Other airports have created soundproofing programs for homes and schools. The Metropolitan Airport in the Twin Cities pays up to $14,000 per home for noise abatement improvements. Other airports have eliminated late night flights. When the Louisville International Airport conducted a similar noise impact study in 1993, its response was to commit over $340 million to purchase homes and as of 2012 had relocated over 3,700 families exposed to noise levels above the FAA standards.
  • Unlike other parts of our government, the county airport has its own budget and earns million of dollars in profits each year. Between 2006 and 2013, the county airport spent $140 million on improvements but nothing on noise abatement.
  • In 2012, neighborhoods surrounding the airport were tired of inaction and provided their own noise abatement recommendations to County Executive Joe Parisi, who State Representative Spencer Black had referred to as an environmental leader. In 2013, neighborhood representatives met with Parisi to present their recommendations and get his support. Parisi's response - nothing.
  • The county airport is too close to existing Madison homes, schools and residents. If the city's Comprehensive Plan considers areas near the county airport uninhabitable, why is it acceptable to continue exposing thousands of people to the same noise and air pollution? Air traffic pollution impacts the health and quality life of those living and working in Madison. It makes Madison an undesirable place to live. Who considers this acceptable?
  • If county airport traffic was subject to the Madison noise ordinance, fines would exceed $65 million each year, or $65 for every passenger. This begins to reflect the cost of airport traffic on the health and quality of life of Madison neighborhoods and residents.

"Planes over Madison"

What do readers have to say?
"I find myself agreeing with your entire argument."

"I wish that instead of investing a pile of money in the new facility Dane Co. would have relocated the airport ten or twenty years ago. Please send me a bumper sticker or two and some more to share."

"Is there any greater symbol of our failure to control sprawl in Dane County than the continued presence of the county airport within Madison?" (Wisconsin State Journal, August 19, 2007)

"You're absolutely correct! Madison needs more affordable housing, not an airport ghetto."

"Children who live close to busy highways or airport flight paths often have higher stress hormones and lower reading test scores." (Capital Times, February 13, 2007)

"Yes, it is time to stop wasting the city's eastside while the rest of the county grows."

"Madison's airport development will never be considered an example of the solution that will rescue its only real treasure, the lakes and its drinking water supply." (Capital Times, November 21, 2006)

"I never realized how much Madison residents sacrifice to support the county airport."

"How noisy is our town? Just come to the east side and stand beneath incoming airplanes with your noise monitor. The house vibrates and conversations come to a halt." (Capital Times, February 24, 2007)

"What a shining example of Smart Growth we could provide by replacing the airport ghetto with homes and neighborhoods."

"Where are the "Smart Growth" leaders?"

"Such a pro-Madison idea. The sounds of people would be far better than the noise of airplanes."
Frequently asked questions?
How would we pay for relocation of the county airport?

The Austin and Denver airports were relocated using airport revenue bonds at no cost to taxpayers. The cost of relocation can also be offset by the difference in land values between the current and new location, airport revenues and federal support. It is no secret that while the rest of county government struggles with tight budgets, the county airport has had unlimited funds for new construction projects.

Where should the airport be moved?

A thorough review of possible sites is needed. One potential location is northeast of Sun Praire along Highway 151.

Wouldn't relocating the airport create more sprawl than leaving it in Madison?

While a relocated airport will consume county land, this will be far less than the land and resources consumed by those 40,000 or more residents that will live and commute from sprawling subdivisions outside the city. Growth at the new airport location can be limited by using the airport's and county's control over zoning. Currently the airport's control over zoning is ironically used to stop residential growth within Madison, where it is needed the most.
Show your support and request a bumper sticker.
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What next?
The ScreamLet your city and county representatives know its time to start planning a better future for Madison and Dane County. We need a study of the costs and benefits of relocating the county airport out of Madison.

Write County Executive Joe Parisi and let him know he is ignoring the environmental and economic impacts of the county airport. By keeping the county airport in the city, he has become the champion of Dane County sprawl.

Write Mayor Paul Soglin and tell him the city Comprehensive Plan is out of balance and needs to more aggressively create housing, especially affordable housing, within Madison. This plan forgot to evaluate the impacts of keeping the county airport in Madison. We need homes, not an airport ghetto. It's time for him to fight for Madison and its residents.

Email us with your thoughts and ideas at:  info@[remove this space]