Report: US Cities Need to Address Air Travel Growth and Soon

ATLANTA - A number of major U.S. cities must expand existing airports in the next two decades, build new ones or find other solutions to meet an increasing demand for air travel, according to a government report released Tuesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration released the latest version of its study, titled "Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System." The report examined anticipated changes to airport capacity through 2025, and said city airports including Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago and San Diego need to expand soon.

Against the backdrop of the world's busiest airfield, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters on Tuesday praised Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for building another runway and new air traffic control towers. Peters also announced a$1 million (?740,000) grant to study further capacity expansion in Atlanta.

"By 2025, cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago and San Diego are going to risk the lost revenue, lost business and lost appeal that comes with chronic delay," Peters said. "Atlanta's leaders will have to embrace new airports and new ways of thinking."

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Marion Blakey said Tuesday that the current number of air passengers is "sounding a siren that must be responded to" with a regional approach.

Airports in Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul have also recently opened new runways.

The FAA study began in 2003 reviewing 291 commercial service airports, and whittled that down to the 56 most at risk of overcapacity.

After the completion of the first version of this study in 2004, it was recommended that Atlanta expand immediately. The city made substantial improvements since, but aviation officials warned it will need to address growing passenger demand before 2025.

Four airports were identified as needing to expand capacity immediately, including New York's LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International, O'Hare International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International.