Jan. 27--GREENSBORO -- A new era at Piedmont Triad International Airport will touch down at 2 p.m. today.
Nearly 12 years after it was announced as part of the FedEx Corp. cargo hub expansion, the airport will open its new runway to air traffic this afternoon. The nearly 2-mile-long runway, the third at PTIA, was proposed in April 1998 as part of the plan to recruit FedEx's latest national cargo hub.
"I think it's a milestone for our airport," said Henry Issacson, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority and a Greensboro attorney and civic leader.
Airport leaders announced the runway's opening during Tuesday's meeting of the authority.
Though built for $150 million to accommodate FedEx, the new runway is open to all aviation traffic. FedEx insisted on the parallel runway to allow its overnight planes to enter and exit the hub in time to meet delivery schedules to customers.
FedEx opened its hub in June of last year, though business has been stunted by the recession.
When fully operational, the hub will involve 126 daily flight operations between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. and should employ 1,500 full- and part-time workers.
Grading for the new runway began in the summer of 2004. Though the detailed plans stem from the FedEx announcement, the concept of a third runway at PTIA first appeared on an airport master plan in 1968, Issacson said.
Crews for the airport continue to work on taxiways related to the new runway, with one scheduled to be completed in February and another in March, said Mickie Elmore, director of development for PTIA.
The runway was funded primarily through federal government grants, along with $30 million from locally generated authority revenues. Security metal fencing around the runway covers 6 miles, Elmore said.
"This is a great day for the airport and the Piedmont Triad. This new runway will give our region a competitive edge when it comes to economic growth," Issacson said.
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The opening of the 9,000-foot-long runway nearly completes a Piedmont Triad International Airport expansion that dates back to April 1998 when FedEx announced that it would build its mid-Atlantic hub at the airport.
The expansion includes the rerouting of a section of Bryan Boulevard to make room for the new runway, the construction of a major new interchange entrance and exit for the airport and construction of the 165-acre, eight-building FedEx hub complex, which opened last June. The runway will open without ceremony this afternoon, but a dedication is planned for this spring.