Madison has a reputation for asking tough questions regarding new plans and projects. Sometimes, Madisonians are accused of engaging in knee-jerk “Not in My Back Yard” NIMBYism when they keep demanding answers. But that’s not the case with the questioning of the proposal by the U.S. Air Force to base F-35 fighter jets at Madison’s Truax Field.

Truax, the old "Madison Army Airfield," has been a part of this community since the early days of World War II, and Madisonians are used to planes flying overhead. But the draft report from the U.S. Air Force and National Guard Bureau on the possible environmental impacts of basing F-35s at Truax alarmed a good many Madisonians.

“Based on context and intensity, the change in the noise environment associated with the Proposed Action would be considered significant in the area surrounding the airfield,” asserts the report, which estimates that 2,215 additional people would be exposed to sound levels that would be above-average compared to the general population. These noise conditions would, according to the report, make roughly 199 acres of land “potentially incompatible for residential use.”

As Capital Times coverage of the report noted, “(it) suggests that the jets could cause an increase in ‘speech-interfering events’ at various points, and could cause ‘classroom learning interference’ at Lake View Elementary School and at Richardson School, a special-needs learning facility.”

It is especially notable that the report suggests that the increased noise pollution would disproportionately impact minority and low-income populations, as well as children. 

These are not the complaints of critics of the F-35 program. These are details from a report prepared by the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau, which we give credit for providing a thorough, 1,099-page report that assesses plans for basing 18 jets at Truax, as well as F-35 basings in locations across the U.S.

The report provides a framework for bringing citizens into the process. The 115th Fighter Wing, which is based at Truax, has said, "We welcome a thoughtful and substantive discussion with the public and the media in regard to the merits of Madison acquiring the F-35 mission as proposed by (the United States Air Force)." That discussion will be advanced Sept. 12, at the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center, when Truax personnel will hold an open house (5-6:30 p.m.) and then provide a formal presentation (6:30-8 p.m) on the plan.

We hope that clear signals will be sent regarding the potential mitigation of noise, where mitigation money would come from and how it would be spent. But the conversation shouldn’t stop there. It should consider other concerns regarding Lockheed Martin’s controversial F-35 program — which, it will be remembered, faced sharp criticism over the years from former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, and the late Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. Several years ago, McCain complained about the “cost, schedule and performance” of the F-35 project, calling it “the worst example of the military-industrial-congressional complex.” 

Before any final decisions are made, questions must be asked and answers must be provided. The period for commenting on the plan runs through Sept. 27, and residents can weigh in online at: www.angf35eis.com/Comments.aspx.

If the community does not get the answers that are needed, local, state and national officials should demand additional time so the right decision can be made for the people of Madison.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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