Thursday, July 30, 2009

Airport Runway Project Promises Fewer Delays, More Jobs

By Patricia Adams

A $376.3 million runway reconstruction project for John F. Kennedy International Airport was announced on Tuesday when Gov. David Paterson was joined at JFK by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Director Christopher Ward, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), local elected officials and members from the labor community.

The Bay Runway will undergo significant rehabilitation to reduce delays and improve airport operations, supporting an estimated 2,500 jobs. “Since it first opened in 1948, John F. Kennedy Airport, and very often the Bay Runway itself, has been New York’s gateway to the world, serving millions of passengers each year, providing tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions in economic activity,” Governor Paterson said.

“If Kennedy Airport is to remain a portal to and from this city and our country, we must continue to invest in it through necessary infrastructure upgrades. The runway expansion, addition of taxiways and other improvements will save passengers time, reduce delays and costs associated with congestion and provide considerable economic development to this region,” the governor added.

PANYNJ Executive Director Chris Ward said: “I want to thank Governor Paterson for supporting this major project at a time when infrastructure investment nationally is being cut back. This project will not only reduce delays and save money at JFK in the long run, but will create thousands of local jobs.”

JetBlue President and CEO Dave Barger stated that, "Improvements to runways and taxiways at JFK are essential to reducing flight delays and increasing the airport's capacity and efficiency. As the largest airline at JFK as determined by the number of customers served and an airline dedicated to providing quality customer service, we at JetBlue look forward to working closely with the port authority throughout the duration of these improvements, which will ultimately benefit all customers traveling through the gateway airport."

Construction on the Bay Runway or Runway 13-31, will begin immediately as part of the second phase of the JFK Delay Reduction Program. The project will widen the runway from 150 to 200 feet and will include a new drainage system, new electrical infrastructure, the addition of delay reduction taxiways and accommodations for future navigational aids. The project will support 1,000 direct and 1,500 ancillary jobs, including direct construction work, asphalt and concrete production, running of aeronautical lighting and food services.

The improvements are expected to reduce flight delays overall by an estimated 10,500 hours per year. Accommodations to taxiways – including high-speed exits for landing aircraft and holding pads where departing aircraft can literally pull off – will enable planes to bypass those held on the tarmac so that others may proceed.

The project is funded through two sources: PANYNJ will provide $292.4 million, and the FAA will provide $83.9 million. Of the FAA’s funds, $53 million will be used for work associated with the Delay Reduction Program and the remaining $15 million is allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Runways at major commercial airports typically require major maintenance work every 5to 10 years. This investment in the Bay Runway takes advantage of an opportunity to make longer-lasting improvements to the Bay Runway – foregoing old-model asphalt for an 18-inch concrete overlay instead. The lifespan of concrete nearly five times more than asphalt and will provide an estimated long-term savings of $500 million while reducing the need for ongoing maintenance.

Through extensive cooperation and coordination with the FAA and the airlines, the PANYNJ expects to minimize the impact on airport operations during the 120 days that the runway will be closed for construction in 2010. Airlines are adjusting schedules and operations to mitigate delays, and the airport’s three remaining runways will be utilized to their full capabilities during the Bay Runway’s closure.

The Forum Newsgroup/photo courtesy of GOVERNOR PATERSON’S OFFICE

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