Eagan is a typical grown-up suburb just south of the Twin Cities. It boasts 67,000 residents, a few major companies, and some pleasant wooded areas carefully set aside. But if you’re new in town, the first thing you notice is the noise.
Every few minutes, it seems, one of many planes from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport screams overhead. A lot of residents have gotten used to pausing conversations – maybe taking the opportunity to take swigs of lemonade or check their phones – and resuming them after the racket dies out.
But for the past few years, Eaganites have been complaining about there being, like, a billion more planes flying overhead than usual. Resident Ted Gladhill says he’s counted 100 soaring by in a single day.
“This is not the same as the past,” he said at a Tuesday night City Council meeting.
And he’s right, according to a July study by the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Most of the traffic is coming from one source: Runway 17. When planes take off there, they fly directly over northwestern and central Eagan, and a smidgen of northeastern Burnsville, according to the Sun This Week.
That’s nothing new. The runway has been around since 2005. What is new is a set of rules implemented in 2015 at airports where runways cross each other. In order to bump up safety and make sure planes don’t collide mid-takeoff, usage of Runway 17 went from about 25 percent of all departures to about 34 percent.
That may not seem like a lot, but 34 percent ends up being something like 69,000 planes flying over Eagan every year. And residents are getting kind of sick of it. Gladhill pointed to a recent community survey, which found that more than 70 percent of residents are now “bothered by” the noise. Some have reported “shaking dishes,” inability to hear the nightly news, and being awakened every morning by jet engines.
“This is not a hell that I chose,” Gladhill said. “We can’t sleep, we can’t enjoy our home outdoors or indoors.”
So the City Council is sending a letter, hoping the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will make changes. Eagan is asking that flights choose something more “compatible” to fly over – like the Minnesota River, or some of the nearby highways.
"It’s a long shot,” says assistant city administrator Diane Miller, but the FAA previously stopped letting pilots use Runway 17 in the middle of the night if there were other safe routes available.