WASHINGTON, DC -- A dozen airport directors from the largest U.S. airports have joined with the nation's top three airlines to call on the Bush-Cheney Administration and Congress to address the aviation capacity crisis and record delays by making runway construction a top federal priority. Pointing out that only six runways have been built at the top large-hub U.S. airports since 1991, the newly formed "Runways: A National Coalition" called for a national solution to ease delays by moving forward on a minimum of five key runway projects per year for the next five years. Some of these proposed runways have been on the drawing boards for almost thirty years, while being held up by an undefined and indefinite local and federal approval process that allows for political intervention and bureaucratic delay.
The coalition specifically called for:
making runway construction a top federal priority,
creating a clearly defined and finite review and approval process for proposed runway projects, and
targeting federal resources to expand the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct thorough and expedient environmental reviews and provide funds for construction and mitigation.
The coalition challenged the federal government to make life easier for the flying public by requesting that five proposed runways per year gain final approval. The FAA's 2000 Capacity Enhancement Plan lists dozens of proposed runway projects from across the country that would drastically ease the mounting aviation delay crisis. According to the plan, there are 14 projects in the pipeline at the nation's busiest airports, including new runways at Washington Dulles, Hartsfield Atlanta, Boston Logan, Denver, and George Bush Intercontinental. Another 27 runways are not slated to open until after 2006.
The FAA's plan states that, "The construction of new runways and the extension of existing runways are the most direct actions to improve capacity at existing airports, but can take a decade or more to complete."
"Any review process that can be measured in decades is flawed," said Virginia Buckingham, Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) Executive Director and CEO. Massport owns and operates Logan International Airport, the nation's 8th most delayed airport. "A crisis occurring today cannot be solved with runways that will be coming online in ten or fifteen years. Fortunately, the FAA has the answers in its Capacity Enhancement Plan. The struggle is getting those proposed runways out of the planning book and onto our airfields."
Over the next few months, the members will work collaboratively to support the upcoming efforts by the AAAE, the ACI-NA, and the ATA to advance runway construction throughout the nation. The coalition has agreed to support specific measures that will be forthcoming from the three organizations representing the major airports. In addition, the members plan on meeting with Congressional leaders, newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey to discuss the group's agenda aimed at reducing air travel delays.
"Runway construction is critical to our ability to function as a national aviation system," said Randall H. Walker, Director of the Clark County Department of Aviation. "Although McCarran was one of the few airports able to construct a new runway during the 90's, we continue to feel the effects of delays through the system due to the lack of capacity at other major airports."
The coalition also released a mission statement further detailing the group's goals. Initially started by officials from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Boston-Logan International Airport, the coalition has grown to include twelve airport directors, Delta Air Lines President and CEO Leo Mullin, American Airlines Chairman, President and CEO Donald Carty, United Airlines Chairman and CEO James Goodwin, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue. American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) President Chip Barclay, Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) President David Plavin, and Air Transport Association of America, Inc. (ATA) President and CEO Carol Hallett and Senior Vice President Edward Merlis are also members.
The announcement was hosted by the United States Chamber of Commerce prior to their Commercial Aviation Summit.