Mineta: Airports Must Act to Meet Growing Demand for Air Travel

Tue August 03, 2004 - National Edition

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta 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, Tuscon, 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 under way 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,” 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, NV; West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, FL; Tuscon, AZ; and Albuquerque, NM — are in the fast growing southern and southwestern United States. More established cities, like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Providence, RI, also are expected to face a capacity crunch.

The Secretary outlined many projects under way by the Department of Transportation (DOT) 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 DOT will build seven new air traffic control towers and also will install new, more efficient, air traffic control equipment in 31 cities, Mineta added.

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.

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 the fifth runway and additional noise reduction measures designed to lessen the impact of the new airstrip on nearby communities.

For more information, visit www.dot.gov.