Noise-canceling construction reducing jet noise for some Highline District schools

By:  Lee Stoll
Source: KOMO News

BURIEN, Wash. - Many teachers in the Highline School District may be used to asking students to be quiet in class, but there's not much they can do about jet noise from nearby Sea-Tac International Airport.

The district says new "noise-canceling" construction will make a difference this year, but much of that work almost didn't happen.

"It was loud in this building before, really loud," Scott Logan from the Highline School District, said about the cafeteria at Mount Rainier High School.

Now the windows are even thicker.

"It's specially formulated to muffle the noise from the airplanes going over head," he said.

Noise-canceling elements were incorporated throughout the building's construction. A lot of work was funded by a combined agreement between a voter-approved bond, the Port of Seattle and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The group reached a plan to spend millions in noise mitigation work on several schools.

But them the FAA decreased the boundaries for what they considered the area affected by the jet noise.

"To go out and campaign and pass a bond first of all, is a lot of work, second of all, to then change the number after the bond is passed is a hard pill to swallow," said Logan.

One reason for the decision was new jets are now quieter. The change would have cost the district millions of dollars it was counting on for school construction.

"The amount of dollars that were at risk for the two projects that qualified for this bond was $18 million on the FAA's side. That $18 million is not a hole we can magically fill," said Logan.

In May, U.S. Congressman Adam Smith and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell worked to keep the FAA to their original funding promise.

Logan said new jets may be quieter by those are not the only aircraft flying. Airport officials said traffic at Sea-Tac us up 41-percent in just the last five years.