PHL airport expansion to include extended runway, longer routes

 The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is a quiet oasis just north of 1-95 and the Philadelphia airport. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is a quiet oasis just north of 1-95 and the Philadelphia airport. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Philadelphia International Airport has received approval to extend a runway to attract larger planes.

The project is just one piece of a multibillion-dollar, 15-year plan to expand the city’s airport.

Right now, the airport doesn’t have runways long enough to accommodate direct flights to far away places. City tourism officials and business leaders have long called for more nonstop flights to places like Tokyo and Shanghai.

In May, regional authorities approved the $6.4 billion project designed to make the airport more competitive by cutting delays and building more runways.

Airport officials say extending one lane by 1,500 feet should help. Tinicum Board of Commissioners recently approved the project, which is anticipated to be complete by 2017. The expected price tag for about a quarter-mile of new landing space? $85 million.

“What we anticipate is that this will allow us to attract new routes to further destinations because it will accommodate planes that carry heavier loads of fuel,” said airport spokeswoman Mary Flannery.

She said a wider runway should break up long plane queues that sometimes build up and cause delays.

Some 300 residents and 80 businesses would have been displaced under the airport’s original expansion plan. Tinicum officials pushed back, saying that would slice its tax revenue by 13 percent.

The deal reached in May saved the 300 homes and resolved four lawsuits leveled by the suburban communities, who felt they were being squeezed out by the airport’s expansion.

Under the approved deal, the airport will pay Tinicum $5 million to acquire nearly nine acres of land for runway construction.

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