Three Major Airports Open New Runways

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Late last week, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Seattle-Tacoma international airports each opened new runways, adding to 11 already opened during the Bush administration's tenure. The new runway at Dulles is its first addition since 1962 and brings the airport's total to four. At O'Hare, the new runway is just a part of a modernization project designed to provide the airport with eight runways in parallel configurations (it previously operated six intersected runways of seven total). In Seattle, the airport's third runway will allow for two-abreast landings in inclement weather.

For now, the third runway at Dulles is serviced by one taxiway -- making it, for now, the screaming last choice of any operator. Still, each additional runway is touted for its ability to increase safety and efficiency at its respective airport, and is praised for its ability to cut delays system-wide (from coast to coast). But for true nationwide improvement at least one glaring bottleneck remains as a problem that may never be resolved. The geographic realities of the New York metropolitan area make new runways at LaGuardia, Newark, and JFK unlikely, and may leave it with the distinction of being the epicenter of aviation delays in the U.S. Unfortunately, even if the land problem were resolved, some observers believe local opposition to airport expansion could prove a taller, perhaps insurmountable hurdle.