Fort Lauderdale International Begins Construction To Increase Capacity

 - April 19, 2012, 12:11 PM

Construction is under way to build a larger south east-west parallel runway at Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL). The $791 million project is slated for completion in 2014 and will allow the airport to increase flight operations capacity by 50 percent, to more than 480,000 a year. The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program is providing $250 million, and the remainder is coming from the Florida Department of Transportation and passenger facility charges. The overall plan includes modernizing the airport’s four airline terminals, slated for completion in 2016, according to Broward County airports director Kent George, and raising the airport’s capacity to 32 million passengers per year. 

The new and elevated 8,000- by 150-foot Runway 10R/28L is clearly the most complicated and ambitious part of the project. (George expects the existing east-west runway and the new one to be relabeled closer to their true magnetic alignments sometime this fall.) It will require the movement of seven million cubic yards of dirt, laying 535,000 square yards of concrete and 90,000 tons of asphalt, and the installation of 1,200 lights and 90 miles of cable. Additional requirements include 520,000 sq ft of turf, 350,000 sq ft of retaining wall, several miles of drainage pipe and roadways and the relocation of 600 big trees.

The expansion also includes the construction of more taxiways and holding areas and under-runway tunnels for 13 lanes of highway, perimeter road, service, rail and future light rail traffic. George defended the elaborate tunneling plan, saying, “It is what is needed and we are planning for the future.” He noted that drilling more tunnels once the runway is completed and operational would be cost prohibitive.

Most of the earth moving is to build up the new runway to facilitate these tunnels. The runway at its steepest point will have a slope of 1.3 degrees, well below the FAA maximum standard of 1.5 degrees, George said.

George said the project includes measures to substantially improve run off drainage on the airport, including new impervious runway surfaces and better capacity to pump water off the airport from areas adjacent to the new crossfield taxiways and the west and north holding areas. “Drainage is important and we have [designed] various areas along the sides of the runway and the middle of the runway. We are also consolidating water and pumping it across I-95 to some land that we own with retention ponds.” FLL tenants, especially on the airport’s north side, have long complained of flooding after seasonal deluges.

Improvements to FLL’s airline terminals are already under way thanks to a more than $100 million program for new concessions, restrooms and upgraded baggage areas. The Transportation Security Administration is contributing $59 million for passenger and baggage security upgrades at the airport, including an in-line baggage system. The airport master plan calls for eventually establishing a security central processing unit. The existing 14 gates at Terminal 4 are being torn down and will be replaced by 10 modern “swing gates” that can be converted easily between national and international flights. While George does expect a modest increase in international traffic in direct flights from Europe, Mexico, and Central and South America, he said FLL has no plans to build infrastructure to accommodate aircraft larger than an Airbus A330.

George said planning for the new runway began in 1988 and went through three environmental impact statements before construction could begin this year. “It has been a monumental effort by a lot of people,” he concluded.