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Philadelphia airport expansion stirs disagreement, prompts legal action

4/17/2012 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

Last month, Mayor Nutter met with US Airways chief executive Doug Parker on the issue of expanding the Philadelphia International Airport. At issue are plans to build a fifth runway. The massive project is opposed by Southwest Airlines, the airport’s second largest carrier, though airport feels the project to be necessary.

The Philadelphia construction project was conceived because of the airport’s persistent delays and increasingly insufficient capacity. The city proposes, in addition to the fifth runway, to lengthen two existing runways and add new terminal and parking facilities. The expansion is expected to cost $6.4 billion over a period of 13 years. The city is reportedly already negotiating a contract with an engineering firm to lead the project management for the expansion, though not everybody agrees that a new runway is necessary.

Sources said the airlines, which would end up bearing most of the costs for the expansion, have opposed the plan, saying the costs would be much higher than predicted and that they may be forced to reduce their Philadelphia operations. They have also said that what really needs to be done to reduce congestion is to redesign the airspace in the Northeastern part of the country.

Other complications will arise if the new runway is built. According to sources, the proposal currently on the table would displace a UPS to a smaller parcel on the airport’s west side, and would require the demolition of 72 houses. Tinicum Township and Delaware County are reportedly suing to halt the expansion.

Projects such as this often run into multiple legal problems along the way. It isn’t clear yet whether this project will go forward, but it is clear that a number of obstacles will need to be removed in order for that to take place.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Nutter, US Airways chief meet over fifth-runway dispute,” Paul Nussbaum, March 25, 2012