Airports Must Act Now to Meet Demand

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman
Y. Mineta today released a new study predicting which airports and
communities will need to expand their capacity by the year 2020. Speaking
at a news conference in Atlanta, the Secretary said airports in growing
cities like Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, Birmingham and Palm Beach will
need to expand their ability to handle more air passengers over the next
16 years. He also listed dozens of projects underway to meet that growing
demand for air travel, and urged more communities to get involved now in
the push to add capacity. The capacity report is the first of its kind to look at current air travel
patterns, economic and population trends, current air service and current
capacity. According to the study, 23 of the nation’s fastest growing
airports will need to add capacity in order to accommodate air traffic
growth over the next two decades.

“Investing in airports today means jobs and economic prosperity for
tomorrow,” Secretary Mineta said. “Let this report be a wake-up call to
cities across America whose economies are taking off.”

Many of the airports—like Las Vegas, Nevada; West Palm Beach and Fort
Lauderdale, Florida; Tucson, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico—are
in the fast growing southern and southwestern United States. More
established cities, like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and
Providence, also are expected to face a capacity crunch.

The Secretary outlined many projects underway by the Department of
Transportation to add capacity. Over the next five years, seven new runway
projects will be commissioned with another 13 runway projects and two new
commercial service airports in the planning stage, he said. The Department
will build seven new air traffic control towers and will also install new,
more efficient, air traffic control equipment in 31 cities, Mineta added.

Secretary Mineta praised cities like Atlanta, Cincinnati and Minneapolis
for making early progress in adding capacity. However, he urged more
communities to partner with the federal government and start adding
capacity now.

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The Secretary stressed that communities would not have to go it alone as
he announced two new grants for the Atlanta airport totaling $43 million.
The grants will help pay the cost of a new fifth runway and additional
noise reduction measures designed to lessen the impact of the new airstrip
on nearby communities.

The study, “Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System: An Analysis of
Airport and Metropolitan Area Demand and Operational Capacity in the
Future” and additional information are available on the Internet at
http://www.dot.gov/affairs/links062404.htm.
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