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Study cites need for expanded airport capacity

A new Future Airport Capacity Task report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) finds that 14 airports and eight metropolitan areas nationwide will require new capacity to accommodate the anticipated growth in air traffic during the next 18 years.

&quotBy 2025, cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago, and San Diego are going to have to risk the lost revenue, lost business, and lost appeal that comes with chronic airport delays or they’re going to have to consider building new airports,&quot says Mary E. Peters, DOT secretary. Peters notes that Atlanta has invested aggressively to keep pace with air travel, with the opening of a new runway, new tower, and new taxiway and construction of a new international terminal. While that expansion has put Atlanta in good stead in the short term, in the longer term, she says, &quotAir service will suffer if this region doesn’t find new ways to handle growing demand and begin looking at building a new airport.&quot

The DOT is making nearly $1 million available for the city’s leaders to look at new solutions for getting more flights in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson in the near future. The new money will also fund a review of longer-term options, such as converting existing general aviation and military air fields for commercial use or even building a new airport.

Building a handful of new airports won’t be enough though, Peters says. The new report also shows that by 2025, 15 metropolitan areas won’t have the ability to handle demand for flights unless they move forward with planned improvements. And in places such as the San Francisco Bay area, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, where existing airports are hemmed in by urban development, the report concludes these metropolitan areas will have to find better ways to use existing, smaller, or underused air fields.

Peters notes that during the last 15 years, the DOT has spent nearly $6 billion to help open 27 new runways at the nation’s largest airports, helped convert five former military airfields to commercial service airports, and has committed additional money for three runways, two airfield reconfigurations, a runway extension, and a major taxiway. The DOT says it is also working to ease congestion in the skies over these busy airports through advances in technology and is also seeking additional, market-based tools to fight congestion in the aviation reauthorization bill now before Congress.

The Future Airport Capacity Task report is available online at www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/airports/resources/publications/reports.