Apr. 5--The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled out an option for building a second major runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that some county officials had hoped could resolve years of turmoil over the airport's expansion.
The plan would have saved the nearby Melaleuca Gardens neighborhood, eliminated the need to bridge Federal Highway and still have been able to handle most commercial jet traffic at the airport. But federal aviation officials said the idea was fatally flawed.
In a memo sent to county commissioners Tuesday, the FAA said the option would have required the Florida East Coast railroad tracks to be realigned in a way that either reduced how fast trains could travel or required the destruction of a large portion of Dania Beach's business district. In addition, a Florida Power & Light Co. substation would have to be moved and the new entranceway to the airport would have to be rebuilt.
"I never thought that option was that viable," Broward Mayor Ben Graber said. "There were those who wanted to explore it, but I did not think it would be where we end up going on the runway."
A similar configuration remains on the table, but is significantly shorter than what commissioners asked the FAA in January to explore. Both would be built just north of the current southern runway.
The idea came up as commissioners wavered for the second time in less than two years on the airport expansion plans.
In December 2003, the commission opted for a plan to extend the southern runway to 8,600 feet, backing away from a decade-long plan for an even longer runway. The plans have faced complaints from environmentalists and neighborhood activists.
The county will likely decide in late summer or early fall which option it favors and then seek federal approval to begin construction.
Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, who proposed the alternative that the FAA has rejected, said she hopes county staff can find some way around the concerns and revive the idea. "It's unfortunate because it would really have been a good way to go," she said.
Scott Wyman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4511.
A 20-year battle isn't over yet
The runway would allow the county to save the cost of bridging Federal Highway and buying out a nearby hotel.
The Federal Aviation Administration has begun a three-year, $1 million environmental study to consider lengthening the airport's general aviation runway from 3,210 to 8,000 feet.
Commissioners told consultants Tuesday to fine-tune the new runway alternative so it's long enough to handle most of the commercial planes using the airport.