Airport runway ruling stands: The Supreme Court will not review a court decision that limits the use of two runways at the county's main airport

Aug. 13, 2007

Aug. 11--Federal authorities will not fight a court order that cuts off one of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport's main strategies for reducing flight delays.

The Department of Justice decided Thursday that it would not ask the Supreme Court to review a May decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals that said the Federal Aviation Administration must keep the bulk of the airport's traffic on its main runway.

The decision is good news for airport neighbors, who equate use of the secondary runways with extra noise. But it could be bad news for travelers because the purpose of using the extra runways was to limit delays.

Meanwhile, Broward County is moving ahead with a separate airport expansion plan for the airport, which is one of the busiest in the nation.

"The federal government only seeks Supreme Court review in extraordinary circumstances," said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman with the FAA. "We decided this case did not meet that standard."

The decision comes after two residents and the cities of Hollywood and Dania Beach filed a lawsuit complaining that putting more planes on the southern and crosswind runways made living near the airport miserable.

Dania Beach Mayor Bob Anton said Friday that he was happy the city won its initial fight, saying he would get calls from frustrated residents whenever the alternate runways were used.

He also said some residents told him the noise was so loud that they would stay in hotels to escape it.

"We won, and rightfully so," he said.

"That shows there was some validity to what we've been saying."

The FAA started using the alternate runways to ease traffic in June 2005, after mounting delays put the airport on a federal list of six potential "trouble spots" for vacation travelers.

The FAA insisted that it had the authority to use "all available runways" to reduce traffic backups because they were creating delays nationwide.

But the federal court decision said that without an environmental study, the county could only use those alternate runways if repairs or emergencies -- like a plane breakdown -- prohibited the use of the main north runway.

In the meantime, the county is pursuing a $695 million expansion plan for the airport's south runway to reduce future congestion.

Broward commissioners voted to expand the runway to about 8,000 feet starting in 2012.

And on Tuesday, commissioners are scheduled to authorize the use of $545,000 in grant funds to continue a required study that examines the environmental effects of that expansion.

The county received a draft of that study in April and should get a final version in a few months, Bergen said.

But more than 1,000 people turned out for the county's initial airport vote, many of them protesting the proposed expansion.

Also, cities bordering the airport have said the fight to block project isn't over.

"We're not backing down," Anton said. "Period."

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