WASHINGTON – The Bush Administration is committing almost $90 million over the next eight years to expand capacity at John F. Kennedy International Airport, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today. She also unveiled new rules designed to lower fares, increase consumer choices and improve service for air travelers using JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports.
“The best way to cut record airline delays nationwide is to expand the limited capacity at New York’s airport,” Secretary Peters said. “Building new taxiways or adding new runways takes time, though, which is why we’re also putting in place measures to cut delays and keep service vibrant over the short term.”
The Secretary said the U.S. Department of Transportation will sign what is known as a “Letter of Intent” committing the federal government to invest $89 million between 2009 and 2016 to fund a series of taxiway improvements at JFK airport. The taxiway improvements include constructing two new taxiways, extending or improving six others and creating new high-speed exit taxiways.
The taxiway work will make it easier for aircraft to maneuver between gates and the airport’s runways, cutting travel time and limiting delays, the Secretary said. She added that the new high-speed exit taxiways will reduce inbound delays to aircraft arriving at JFK.
“The goal is simple, find every possible way to safely add as much capacity as possible to some of the most popular airports in the country,” said Acting Federal Aviation Administrator Robert Sturgell. “Combined with dozens of other capacity improvements we’re making at the airport, this new investment will lead to more flights, fewer delays and a better traveling experience for countless flyers.”
Secretary Peters said that the construction work was expected to begin in 2009 and would be completed by 2014. She added that the Department also was working with local airport officials to move forward on a range of other needed capacity projects, including additional taxiways and other airfield improvements.
She said that until the capacity improvements can come on line, the Department has limited the number of flights that could operate in a given hour at JFK and Newark airports. Combined with existing “caps” at LaGuardia airport, the Secretary said that service at the airport was at risk of stagnating since other competitors are locked out of the market. She cautioned that studies have found airfares at capped airports run 11 to 15 percent higher than at comparable airports without caps.
In order to keep the New York aviation market open to new services that would promote competitive fares, the Secretary also announced final rules to auction a limited number of landing and take-off “slots” at each of the region’s three airports. Under the final rules, airlines operating at JFK, Newark and LaGuardia would receive a 10-year ownership of the vast majority of FAA slots they currently operate, the Secretary said.
However, the new rules call for a gradual auctioning over the next five years of up to 10 percent of the landing and take off slots these airlines currently operate free of charge today. She added that the rules also would lower the hourly operating cap at LaGuardia airport from 75 slots per hour to 71 slots per hour by “retiring” an additional five percent of the slots currently being used, cutting delays by an estimated 40 percent.