Project Accommodates Larger Airliners, Allows Passenger Growth
The Federal Aviation Administration
placed its stamp of approval last week on a controversial runway
lengthening at South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood
International Airport as future passenger projections pointed to
significant flight delays in its current
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, FLL is one of the
35 busiest airports in the US with 22.7 million total passengers in
2007. The number is expected to grow to 30.8 million by 2020. The
FAA estimates average flight delays of 26 minutes will be normal by
then if a second parallel airliner capable runway is not in
operation by then.
Currently the airport uses only one East-West runway to
accommodate commercial airliners. The southern parallel runway
currently 5,276 feet long can only accommodate smaller commuter
airliners and general aviation aircraft. To plan for the projected
passenger growth, the FAA concluded it to be lengthened to 8,000
feet, allowing larger airliner operations.
First proposed in 1987, over two decades of delays and debate
have blocked the runway project. The project stalled most recently
in 2002 after public outcry over its impact on the surrounding
environment and increased noise levels prompted county
commissioners to back down from the project. Critics also
questioned the accuracy of air traffic projections, particularly as
higher gas prices drive up the cost of airline tickets and airlines
cut-back on schedules. County commissioners agreed to a major
review, but re-endorsed the south runway in June 2007.
To aid in quieting local concerns over noise, in its approval,
the FAA agreed to nearly double an area considered to be the most
impacted by the increased levels. As a result, more
than 4,500 residents south and west of the airport would be
eligible to receive financial assistance to soundproof their homes
including better windows and insulation. The agency disagreed to a
request by Broward County officials to limit the runway's use to
The FAA commitment adds to $33 million already set aside by the
airport for local soundproofing assistance. The airport expects to
seek permission in August from county commissioners to begin a
pilot soundproofing program for select homes.
Opponents of the project believe it negatively impacts the local
environment as 15 acres of wetland will be destroyed for
construction. To offset the damage to the wetlands, the airport
agreed to pay for improvements to West Lake Park in Hollywood.
FAA will accept comments on its report through July 28 and will
make a final decision this fall, clearing the airport to begin
design and construction work.
Barring further delays, the project is expected to be complete
by 2014 at a cost of $784 Million. The extension requires a tunnel
allowing it to cross above Federal Highway and the Florida East
Coast Railroad, and the runway would slope slightly upward west to
east to clear the train tracks. The current crosswind
southeast-to-northwest runway would be closed.